In today's blog, we continue our exclusive interview with Soul Searching author  Sarah Stillman. Read part one here.

Knowing what you know now, what single piece of advice would you give your 16-year-old self?

Looking back, I definitely blush to realize how totally fixated I was (and often still am) on the idea of “achievement” – on setting certain kinds of goals and accomplishing them as a way of measuring self-worth. I now suspect that it’s equally important to learn how to live with discomfort; not everything can be fixed and tied up with a tidy bow, and maybe it’s ok to thrash around sometimes, have no idea what you’re doing, and lack the answers entirely.  In fact, the humility that comes from messing up seems like a big part of what makes us able to connect with other people and to live more generously, I think.  It’s probably harder to have empathy if you haven’t been knocked low sometimes and admitted it to yourself.  There are some things I’ve done in the past decade that made me feel totally incompetent.  But I’d like to think those things were – and will continue to be – useful in bringing me back down to size and encouraging me to be aware of all of the privileges I’ve had in my life thus far, and all of the other possible perspectives.

Who is/was your biggest inspiration or hero?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about whistleblowers – people who stand up in environments where there’s some sort of injustice going on and decide to speak out about it, despite the obvious risk to themselves.  I’ve worked on a few stories about whistleblowers lately, in a variety of contexts; many of these people never get the fame or glory associated with other social justice advocates, but their sacrifices are huge and definitely make me feel inspired.

What’s your perfect relaxation playlist?

I’m still a big Joni Mitchell fan.  Right now I’m also loving Laura Marling, Patti Smith (relaxing isn’t exactly the word…), Gillian Welch, and my creative-genius friend Geo Wyeth (plus his band Jive Grave).

Flash Questions:

These questions are designed to be answered in a flash, ideally in less than 5 seconds each! Don’t overthink it. Just give us the first answer that comes to mind. This is supposed to be fun! Ready. Set. Go!

  What is your favorite candle or fragrance?  Lavender. Or anything that smells like dessert: vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg. What was your favorite book growing up? I thought Pippi Longstocking was brilliant, and I still do. Chocolate or Vanilla? Let’s go chocolate. If we ran into you on the street, what song are we most likely to hear you humming? “How Come You Never Go There,” by Feist, has been in my head all week.  And lately, for some weird reason, I wake up with Nintendo songs in my head – like the theme from Super Mario Brothers.  Why, I really don’t know; maybe it’s because when I have insomnia, I sometimes try to work through old-school Super Mario levels in my head and remember the different songs associated with each scenario: the under-water song, the castle song, etc. If you were trapped on a desert island, what book would you bring? I’d pick something by Walt Whitman, or, more likely, How to Escape if Trapped on a Desert Island. What’s your guilty pleasure?  I like infinitely clicking on various links when I’m supposed to be working on some piece of writing, and then justifying it to myself as “research”; it’s amazing how much time can be squandered this way, watching YouTube videos of cats dancing the conga, etc. Mac or PC? Mac all the way. Although I’ve been encouraging fellow Mac users to listen to Mike Daisey’s podcasted play about his journey to a Mac factory in Shenzhen, China: What was your favorite childhood toy? It’s simple, but I loved my soccer ball. If you had a super power, what would it be?  Zapping people with more compassion and thoughtfulness (self included) – like a “De-Selfish-ification” machine.

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