Prompted

Summer 2017

Prompt: What's the best advice — or worst advice — you've either given or received?

I was a “secretaries’ assistant” back before secretaries were administrative professionals in Steiner, and Helyn Wohlwend was my boss, before she was a Writing Lab instructor. One day she asked me to call in an order of supplies or something, and I had never done that before and wasn’t sure how to go about it. Helyn told me, “Sara, everybody is faking it. No one knows exactly what they are doing. No one got a manual that you didn’t.” That has always stuck with me. Everyone is just making life up as they go along. It makes me feel better when I get overwhelmed and think I should have all the answers.

My grandfather when I was 5: “You won’t like everyone, and everyone won’t like you. And that’s OK.” 

“Not all of the advice you’ll receive should be listened to.”

 

I was moaning about studying for my Russian final and my high school principal, Dr. Bill Youngblood, a wise and good man, told me simply, “Hate it later.” 

It was crystallizing, and since then I’ve gone back to those three words more times than I can count. Someday I’m going to needlepoint them onto a pillow.

[My] first boss post-Grinnell said she only brings to work what she can put in a box and carry out on her last day. She meant never get too comfortable where you work because you never know what may happen with you or the position.

In his youth my grandfather was a boxer. He taught me how to follow through on a punch by advising “always aim for the back of the skull.” It’s served me well and I think it could be a good metaphor for going all in. 

He also taught me to know my limits, though, through his example of declining an offer to box a kangaroo. He said the guy who did was never quite right afterward. The ’40s were a different time, indeed.

Before applying for the promotion that would take you the next step up the corporate ladder, take time to deeply consider whether you really want that job or not, including careful consideration of (1) what it will take to get that highly competitive promotion and (2) whether you are prepared to meet all of the demands it will impose.

My parents always reminded me that, “You can’t get what you don’t ask for.” I always take this to heart in everything I do. Take advantage of new opportunities (of all sorts), don’t wait around for the world to come to you.

When my mom passed away, a good friend said, “Be gentle with yourself.” Especially good while grieving since it is a strange creature that shows up in unexpected ways. I need to heed it far more often. 

In high school, everyone said college would be the best four years of my life. So when I was looking at schools, that’s what I looked for: Where would I have the best four years of my life? And it was such a difficult thing to ask of a school, any school. 

Now, as an admission counselor, I make sure to tell students looking at colleges that they should choose a college that will make them happy and able to be the best version of themselves, because that’s how it becomes the best four years of a person’s life. That’s why Grinnell was for me.