Thursday, September 10, 2015

5 Questions Answered By Someone Awesome - Sarah Stilgenbauer


Awesome. 
What makes someone awesome? 

Like any good recipe, there are ingredients that you see and some that you don't. You don't see the flour or sugar in a completed chocolate chip cookie, but I assure you, the absence will be noted. 

I'm continuing my adventure of finding people that I think are awesome, telling them that they are awesome and trying to find out why they are so awesome. 

You can read my original blog post about the idea here. So far, I have asked questions of Scott Wise - the Scotty in Scotty's Brewhouse, Rik Danburg from your Cleveland Indians, past Browns Kicker, Billy Cundiff and BFF author, David Collins.  

This time, I asked my friend and past colleague, Sarah Stilgenbauer, 5 questions. 

Sarah and I worked in the same department within a behemoth of an organization, although not on  many projects together.  She is one of those people with a great spirit and attitude, which is more than awesome. It wasn't until I left and we connected on social media that I realized her amazing extracurricular activities. She is smart, witty and a surfer (!). 

After seeing fantastic pictures of her adventures in surfing, I had to catch up with her and ask her 5 questions.

Sarah Stilgenbauer with her board. 

1. I know you because we worked at the same nonprofit. I've always said that working for a nonprofit is more than career, it is a calling. How did you get involved in nonprofit work?
Great question! I can't point to a single moment when I realized that the non-profit sector was where I belonged. I just seemed to find myself there. My mom was involved as a trustee at a historic theater throughout my childhood - and I was always there; either playing in the next room during board meetings or as a student in their summer theater programs. When you get involved in the arts, a great deal of it is nonprofit. 

I was intrigued by the management of these organizations, since it's easy to see how things could be done better when you're not the one responsible. So I got my masters in nonprofit management so I could gain a deeper understanding of the complexities being faced by those at the leadership level. 

At my core, I firmly believe that there are things in this world that everyone should have access to, but that will never succeed in the marketplace - and I don't think we should expect them to. Art and healthcare are at the top of that list. 


2. When we worked together, I noticed you were hardworking and professional in everything you did. After we connected on social media, I saw that you are also an awesome surfer! I never thought you could do that on Lake Erie. How did you get involved in surfing here?
I've been interested in surfing since college. It's another thing that sort of snuck up on me. Woe to the person who mentioned to me that they surfed - I'd inundate them with questions about it. I started watching the guys (and girls) surf the waves at Edgewater in fall and spring a few years back - I never thought I'd be among them. Two years ago (2013), two things happened to change that: I bought a stand up paddleboard (SUP) and I met an honest to goodness waterman: surfer, waterskier, kitesurfer, sailor. He encouraged me to get out there in anything. I'd get these texts at 6 am: "WAVES @ EDGEWATER NOW. Get out there!!!!" It took about a year to get confident enough to go out on my own, but I do – and now the solo sessions are some of my favorites. I’ve met some great people doing it – and I’m headed to Canada this coming weekend for Ladies of the Lakes – a gathering of women who surf the Great Lakes. I can’t wait to get good enough that I can chase a storm to Western Michigan or Wisconsin and be fairly assured that I’ll catch a few rides for my trouble. 


Sarah stand up paddling (SUP)

3. You have also gone on some amazing camping solo expeditions. I would be terrified that I would be gobbled up by a bear (maybe I watch a little too much reality tv). What is it like out there and what is the best thing about it?
Unfortunately, I haven’t been as successful with that as I would like. I bought a used tent last year with the intention of camping with friends, but somehow, I didn’t end up with many friends who camp! I’ve stayed solo on family land – which doesn’t totally count. I was supposed to go on a solo expedition earlier this summer. But thunderstorms moved in and the ranger did not recommend that I set up camp. I really need to try that one again – you load your gear on a boat (or in my case, my SUP) and go to your assigned island campsite on a lake in NY. That feels safer to me because a) a bear would have to swim out to get me, and b) so would ax murders. Can you even swim with an ax? I like to think it takes too much effort for someone to bother.



One of my greatest anxieties in the more trafficked campgrounds is that someone will see me setting up as a woman on her own – especially since I would likely camp off-season. People are more frightening to me than bears. The author of the book, “Wild” did a great job of showing the more subtle aggressions that concern me as a woman in the woods. But I do hope to face those anxieties and get out there. The only thing stopping me at this point is me. 


4. What is the best piece of advice that someone gave you and what piece of advice do you wish someone gave you?
The best piece of advice was from a boss who is now one of my closest friends. I almost missed an external deadline, and was mortified. He said something like, “It’s not the only mistake you’ll ever make. It’s not the biggest mistake you’ll ever make. Solve the problem, learn from it, and you won’t let it happen again.” I’ve carried that with me, and shared it with others. Mistakes happen – I think it’s good to keep that perspective. 

I wish I was raised with a bit more respect for decorum. I tend to put it all out there, regardless of audience. I’ve had to learn to hold back in some situations, and it always feels “wrong” to me – like I’m lying. If I had learned to practice this earlier in my life, I’m sure it would come more easily now. 


5. Last question, who do you think is awesome and why?
This is hard for me, I think so many people are awesome in so many ways: hidden and obvious. Broadly - anyone who has moved past shame, fear, or self-doubt to find and take a path to fulfillment. It could be as profound as a refugee fleeing to build a new life or a single woman deciding to become a mother, or as simple as learning a new skill, like ballroom dancing.

Sarah on Lake Erie in the winter. Brr.

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