Weekend Wisdom

Sally Herships '91

31
“Sometimes it’s okay to be embarrassed, uncomfortable, and sweaty.
“I was an intern at Radiolab, a science show broadcast out of WNYC. I’d come to work dressed for a comfy day at the office: a miniskirt, high-heeled leather boots. Then a call came in. The newsroom needed someone to do a tape sync at Central Park. (A tape sync is when a local reporter records audio for a reporter who’s far away.) I grabbed my gear and hopped in a cab. But when I got there, I found out it wasn’t a tape sync: It was a press conference. Christo, the artist who with his wife wraps buildings and islands and other things, was launching a project called The Gates and the world’s press was there.
 
“I had no idea what to do. Camera people had their tripods set up and black cables were everywhere. The other reporters were ready. Tightly packed together, they didn’t look friendly and there wasn’t any more room. Panicked, I called a friend back at the station. She told me to get as close as possible to the speaker. At the front of the room, he was behind a podium, ready to speak. I went and squatted next to him and held my microphone in the air as close to him as I could.  
 
“The press conference was long. My arm hurt, my legs burned. The photographers yelled ‘Down in front’ — angry-photographer lingo for ‘Get out of the way.’ I was red with embarrassment, and sweating. But I kept rolling. After what felt like a year, a reporter in the front row looked at me. Somehow, she communicated to me with her eyes. Their message: ‘What you’re doing there is fine, but you could also hold your mic up next to that other speaker.” Her eyes shifted in the direction of the big black audio speakers set up around the room.
 
“I felt humiliated and later, after I turned in my tape, I decided I never wanted to go back to the newsroom. When I woke up the next day, though, I realized I’d never had more fun. If this is what it meant to be a reporter, I wanted more. And years later, that’s what I am.
 
“And I’m also a teacher. My students are always worried, about embarrassing themselves, about failing if they try something new. I tell them this story and I think about Kent Place. Whenever I could, I sat in the front row. I didn’t worry about raising my hand and asking questions or trying new things.
 
“So I tell my students that sometimes falling down, embarrassing yourself, getting uncomfortable and sweaty are good. They’re signs that you’re challenging yourself, and learning.”

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Kent Place School is an all-girls K through 12 independent college preparatory day school with a coeducational Preschool, located in Summit, NJ.