Today’s Dame of the Day is Hilary Knight (July 12, 1989-). As a kid growing up in Illinois, Knight spent plenty of time on the ice playing hockey. After high school, she attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, led the school’s women’s hockey team to a national championship, and scored the most career points of any lady Badger to date. Following graduation, Knight began playing professionally and represented the United States at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics; she won two silver medals.
Today’s Dame of the Day is Jackie Joyner-Kersee (March 3, 1962-). Although she struggled with asthma, Joyner-Kersee was able to overcome the impediment and qualified for the Olympic trials when she was in high school. Competing as a heptathlete and a long jumper, she won three gold, one silver, and two bronze Olympic medals over the span of four Olympic Games. To this day, Joyner-Kersee still holds the Olympic and world record for the heptathlon. After her retirement, she remained on the Board of Directors for USA Track and Field and pursued several philanthropic projects.
Today’s Schoolin’ Life post comes from librarian and educator Meghann Walk.
Give us a quick bio: who are you, what are you into, and how do you spend your days?
Meghann Walk, Library Director and Social Studies faculty member at Bard High School Early College. I spend my days either at or doing things for my job, which sounds sad, but isn’t (or at least it isn’t as sad as it sounds). My life’s goal is to be a student forever, and working at BHSEC comes remarkably close to that, only with the perk of being paid.
When you were in your 20s…
What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?
You know, I couldn’t say that I had many expectations for myself – not in the sense that I had “low” expectations, but that setting expectations or long-term plans isn’t really how I operate. The future is always kind of fuzzy for me until I’ve decided to do something new, at which point it’s often because the new thing I now want to do came across my path rather unexpectedly. However, when I’ve made the decision about what I’m doing next, I am frightfully determined about making it happen.
In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?
Again, I have a certain obliviousness that is *mostly* a benefit. It doesn’t occur to me that I “ought” to be doing something (or in contrast, that I ought not to do something). It’s actually probably the latter situations where I’ve recognized that others’ expectations might act as a barrier. There can be a sort of pigeonholing, particularly of younger women, into “supportive” or “cheerleader” roles. This wouldn’t be a problem at all if it weren’t for the fact that these roles are seen as opposed to “leadership” rather than pathways to leadership.
What was your first job like?
I am extraordinarily lucky, in that I’m still in my first professional job. The combination of understaffing and a supportive administration means I’ve been able to grow in the job and take on many new opportunities (and mostly use my professional judgment to decide what those opportunities should be). It also means I’m occasionally somewhat exhausted, but 90% of that exhaustion is for things I value, which seems like a pretty good ratio.
What was your first apartment like?
5th floor walkup. One bedroom (I have a daughter, so this is not as luxurious as it sounds). It was in the Lower East Side, and the owners decided to convert to higher rent apartments, so for six months the hallways were filled with dust. At the end of our lease, we moved to Brooklyn.
Did you experience any big life changes?
I had my daughter unusually young, in my early 20s. That was a big life change, to say the least, and it shaped everything. I went to library grad school because I needed a degree that would lead to relatively quick employment. I eventually settled for school librarianship rather than traditional academic librarianship because I needed a schedule to match hers, etc. Yet each of these things, which were “forced” choices, turned out to lead to an impossibly good outcome. This might be why I don’t worry about planning ahead overly much – you never know the shape of things to come. I could not have possibly intended this path in my early 20s. Yet I wouldn’t change it now for anything.
In what ways did your friendships change?
In college, my friends were all pretty much my age. One of the great things about making friends at work is that I now have people I can turn to who have a lot more experience than I do, or whose experiences are a lot more wide-ranging. It’s also nice to have friends who are younger – it means I get to be a wise sage! I have one friend who is always about a “stage” behind me, so we laugh about that.
What did you learn through your romantic relationships?
That I’m not terribly good at them.
How do you feel you changed emotionally/intellectually?
I combined the emotional/intellectual change question because I don’t really know how to describe the changes other than by explaining that I find I can’t read fiction for fun anymore (or at least it is very rare). Instead, in the last year or two I pick up nonfiction books that look more like what I might have been required to read in college or grad school. And finishing them, for which I always pat myself on the back, since what never changes is the need to give yourself your own props, even for small accomplishments.
In what ways do you feel your identity changed?
Honestly, I like to keep the requirements for my identity to a minimum. Rather than asking “who am I?” I prefer to ask whether I am engaged things that are fulfilling. The parts of my identity that are more fixed are those things that I get to take for granted – my parents, my siblings, the home I grew up in are all things that provide a rootedness which I appreciate more as I grow older.
How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?
I think I’ve become more cognizant of three things: how the strange interplay of giant, seemingly overwhelming “forces” and luck shape any particular person’s life; at the same time the extent to which we have the power to shape ourselves; and that the inevitability of the first category really is only seeming in the sense that political will and human choices could shape these forces in other ways.
What was the most embarrassing moment?
I’m suspect I don’t even recognize the moment I should be most embarrassed about, and have probably overinflated the ones that still mortify me (which I will happily share over drinks, but not over the internet). However, I will share that I’m a bit embarrassed that despite years of education, I need to use spell-check to get “embarrassed” right.
What was your biggest disappointment and how did that affect you later?
Now that I’m thinking on this question, some of my biggest career disappointments have happened over the last year. The odd thing is that I haven’t registered them as disappointments. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that I’ve registered them as temporary roadblocks. As for personal disappointments, what’s the point of your 20s if not to fill your life with them? Later you can cherish them as adventures, even if at the time they felt like tragedies.
Who was your biggest influence and why?
Hmm…there are so many. When I got to BHSEC in my mid-20s, my colleagues influenced me enormously. The why is obvious enough, though to describe the ways would fill a small monograph. So instead I’ll name someone who probably didn’t realize at the time what she had done. I was working in the Communications Library as an undergrad at the University of Illinois, a month from graduating and at a total loss as to what to do. I majored in poli sci, which I loved, but the thought of taking the obvious route to employment (law school) had sent me into the one and only actual panic attack I’ve ever had. Lisa Romero, head of the Communications Library, casually mentioned that I would make a good librarian after I found some comma issues in a bibliography or an order she was preparing to send out. Anyone who’s worked with me would probably find it amusing to know that comma irregularity led to where I am today, since the order-imposing aspects of librarianship are what I find least interesting (and sometimes actively resist). But the point is that the smallest moments can have a huge impact.
Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?
Nope. The question of the past, and of regrets, is one example where I find that things I read in college (in this case, Nietzsche) make more sense or take on greater significance than when I first encountered them. I suppose that’s what makes a work great – its meaning or meanings expand rather than diminish as you get older.