Last weekend, I spent some time at my alma mater, Wellesley College. I was shown around by fellow alum and now Wellesley assistant professor, Sara Wasserman. There’s something remarkable about being taken on a tour of a shared alma mater by a fellow student who has since become the shepherd for the next generation of women who will do great things in the world.
Sara runs The Wasserman Lab
. Yes, she has her own lab where she teaches students how to do as she has done for years, work with flies to discover how sensory inputs influence actions. That’s a really simplistic description (there’s so much more to it than that), but it’s about more than the flies and how they respond to changes to their environment. It’s about empowering young women to believe in their bones that, no matter what happens, they can do anything to which they set their mind.
If anyone knows a thing or two about setting their mind, it’s Sara. She has a bachelor’s from Wellesley, a master’s from Pepperdine in Education, a PhD in Neuroscience from Brandeis, a post-doctoral research fellowship at UCLA and now a professorship at Wellesley. She runs SWIRLSS
, "a STEM nonprofit [filing in progress] ... whose mission is to establish a national network of research laboratories on high school campuses.”
Sara makes mind-bending work look easy; she finds joy and satisfaction in working to expand knowledge and understanding of the brain and how it works. She also completed a theater major at Wellesley, which empowers her to creatively translate the complexity of technology and science into everyday prose and with a healthy dose of side-splitting humor to boot. She's savvy, stylish and makes science look easy. She rewarded my reading about the brain with a short lecture on how signals in the brain are chemically transferred from one neuron to another. It was fascinating.
Sara is one of many rock stars I have had the privilege to grow with over the years.
You may have seen the Women of NASA
set that LEGO released not too long ago. I’ve watched as my partner Tim has worked long hours along with his team members at LEGO to support its fan designer Maia Weinstock. It’s a lovely tribute to some truly remarkable women. Meanwhile, the LEGO Ideas platform, which Tim has worked on from its earliest days, is a real testament to the power and value of getting the people who love and care about your product involved in its growth.
I’ve often mentioned Sam Sanders over at NPR, who, after he gave voice (and much-needed joy) to the NPR Politics Podcast went on to produce and voice yet another NPR podcast, “It’s Been A Minute”
. Sam has quickly become the voice of the next generation of NPR talent. There’s Khe Hy, the mastermind behind the Rad community that includes the newsletter and podcast under the Rad Reads
banner and Rad Jobs, one of the best job listing resources I have ever seen. Seriously, these are jobs you want.
I could go on and on and on and on … and I will. I promise. This is just a taste of the incredible people with whom I have had the privilege of working, living and enjoying life.
These days, I struggle with my choice not to pursue a life in media and live as publicly as I once did. I worry that I have taken the easy path, veering away from a fully, obviously creative life. But the opportunity for creativity is everywhere, and sometimes the more rewarding opportunities are the furthest away from the spotlight.
Also, the path to where you want to be is not linear. It has bends and curves and, sometimes, sheer cliffs. Navigating that path successfully occasionally means stepping back for a while to think differently and see inside different communities and spaces. In all honesty, it has been a nice break for my mind to explore an entirely new way of living.
When we step into a new frame of our lives, it can be easy to toss the past aside, and that's fine to do, but you never toss the people -- not the good ones, definitely not the rock stars who worked alongside you and helped you get to where you are.
I have had the incredible privilege of coming into my own while in the company of absolute rockstars — people who don’t accept good enough, who value hard work and still remember how to play like children. I am so proud of and happy for my friends, and I hope you’ll join me in supporting their work. Thank you, too, to everyone who wrote to me after last week’s newsletter. Your words of encouragement and warmth were so desperately needed and valued. Thank you.
Have a great week, rock star.