My time in high school
Attended high school in the
Overall high school experience
5/10. I probably looked like an achiever, but I was pretty miserable and spent much of my time in tears. My parents' business was in serious financial trouble, and we thought our home might be seized at any moment. I didn't feel comfortable sharing this information with classmates who were so wealthy that they drove new cars out to buy restaurant food for lunch, and asked me why I always wore the same clothes and never got new ones. These same classmates ostracized me for being obsessed with grades and test scores; for them I know these things were also important, but for me I knew I would be unlikely to be able to go to college unless I won scholarships. I found junior year so stressful that I spent months fantasizing about jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.
Grades in high school
Computer Science / Engineering / Technical, English, History / Social Studies, Foreign Language
Chemistry and math were most difficult for me. In retrospect I think it was because I was so stressed and sleep deprived that it was hard to learn. In college I was able to hold my own just fine in these subjects.
Cultural / Language
Life since high school
Attended college / university at
I started at Harvey Mudd College and transferred to Stanford to finish with two bachelors degrees; one in the humanities and the other in science.
Post-graduate education or training
I did graduate work in the humanities at UC Berkeley, Harvard, and Princeton. I've done additional short non-degree continuing education courses pretty much every year since leaving grad school.
Places lived in US
California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York
Places lived outside the US
Current occupations / past occupations
Humanities administrator; humanities instructor; library consultant; computer support technician; website administrator; retail clerk; parent
Industries I've worked in
- Educational Services
- Administrative and Support Services
- Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services (e.g. Law, Accounting, Interior Design, Graphic Design, R&D, PR, Advertising, etc.)
- Information (e.g. Publishing, Film, Broadcast, Telecommunications, Libraries)
- Retail Trade
Did your education prepare you for your career or occupation?
My education prepared me to work with academics (a unique subset of the population) and write/do research at a professional level, but many of the organizational and practical skills I have came from prior work experience and extracurriculars in which I played a leadership role.
Has your education or career/occupation trajectory ever changed? How?
My trajectory changed when I left graduate school knowing that I didn't want to teach/research badly enough to spend a decade of my life as an adjunct with uncertain income and prospects.
A little introspection...
To me, being successful means...
Being able to take pride in what you've made of your life.
My definition of success has changed over time.
Although the core of my own idea of success hasn't changed, it has been a difficult and continuing struggle to keep my sense of accomplishment separate from parental expectations. You'd think at 40 it would be easier to look your parents in the eye and not be sorry for having chosen a path that doesn't involve marrying a person wealthy by inheritance or profession in order to secure a pampered and indolent life for oneself and one's offspring, but...in my experience, parents don't change. I had to build yourself the protective space I needed to keep myself from wishing I had never been born.
My greatest accomplishment to date and what I’ve learned from it
I am proud to say that I have developed and run a humanities initiative in an area I am passionate about: my team raised over $3 million dollars in funding, and passed most of that money directly on to students and untenured professors in the wake of the 2009 financial turmoil. I have also managed to marry (and so far stay married to), the only person I've ever fallen for at first sight. We have two kids who amaze me on a daily basis. I'd be hard pressed to rank one of these as most important to me, but I will say that having these commitments on three fronts at the same time has been very hard. I have learned from all the support I received from colleagues, childcare providers, and other friends how to become better at providing support to others so that they too can pull off this kind of balancing act, if they want to.
My biggest mistake or regret so far and what I’ve learned from it
I regret staying so long in grad school. I let an administrator talk me out of leaving (by telling me I wasn't fit for any other kind of employment), when I should have trusted my instincts. It wasn't easy figuring out a new path for myself, but (obviously, in hindsight) that dean was wrong.
An unexpected event that significantly changed my life and how it impacted me
I won a major fellowship, which was a very long shot. It was portable. I wanted to experience the East Coast. I thought I would be gone for six months, but one thing led to another and I never moved back. I've been away for more than a decade now, and even if I could afford to move back to Palo Alto, I'm no longer sure that I want to.
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My favorite spot in or around Palo Alto
Mitchell Park Library