Life After High School: Interview with Sarah Henry

Sarah Henry

Today’s interview with Sarah Henry is part of my ongoing blog-to-book project: Life After High School: Secrets To A Successful Life By Those Who Have Had Twenty Years To Think About It (or) What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School. If you missed the last post, click here, otherwise, you can start at the beginning here.


Sarah Henry

Seattle, Washington

My Life In High School

Sarah Henry AHS 1996

Who were you in High School and how did you feel about it?

I was very outgoing in high school and didn’t want to miss out on anything. Some things haven’t changed that much.

What did you think your life would become when you graduated?

I don’t know if I had big expectations of what I would do after graduation. I didn’t think that far into the future. I knew that I wanted to go to college and then join the Peace Corps to live overseas for a couple of years.

My Life After High School

Sarah Henry

What happened in your life to you, for you, and by you in the last twenty years (how have you used your time and who have you become)?

After high school, I went to college. During college, I had an opportunity to travel around the world on a boat. It was an incredible experience that wet my appetite for travel and adventure.

When I graduated college I joined the Peace Corps and moved to the Dominican Republic for over two years.

Upon completion of my time in the Peace Corps, I went to graduate school at Columbia University in New York to get my Master’s in public health. I picked Columbia as it had a big Dominican population and I figured that it was the only chance I’d have to live in NY for a couple of years.

When I graduated I met an entrepreneur and doctor from Harvard who wanted to start a non-profit in the Dominican Republic. I jumped at the chance to do a start-up and moved to the DR with just a suitcase and an idea. I spent the next three years helping build a successful nonprofit in the DR that worked in maternal, newborn and child health.

I met my now husband towards the end of my three years and he moved with me back to the States to Boston where I was offered a position to run the organization I helped build in the DR. I did that for a couple of years until my oldest son Oliver was born, and I learned that it takes a village to raise the child so moved back to WA.

I was able to keep my job and worked remotely, but was constantly traveling overseas and to Boston. So I took a job in Seattle, working for a social investment nonprofit. I did that for a couple of years until I had the opportunity to work at the Gates Foundation.

I currently work at Stanford but am seconded at the Gates Foundation to help build out their work on gender equality.

I now have three kids and live in West Seattle and try to spend as much time as possible visiting my parents in Anacortes. I feel like I have been incredibly fortunate in life thus far and have been given amazing opportunities to continue to learn and do something every day that I feel passionate about.

My Life Lessons

What were the major life lessons and wisdom that you gained during your journey over the last 20 years?

  1. To be humble, kind and assume goodwill – you never know what someone else is going through
  2. Nothing in life is permanent so enjoy the ups but also know that the downs won’t last forever
  3. Laughter can cure all and don’t take yourself too seriously
  4. Live every day to the fullest – travel, learn another language, take risks
  5. Love hard

Letter To My High School Self

If you could write your 18-year-old self (or however old you were when you graduated) a letter, and send it back in time, what would you say? What lessons did you learn, and what wisdom, encouragement, or warnings would you give yourself?

Dear Sarah,

I know that you think that this is the peak of your life, but it isn’t. It is an important chapter but you will continue to learn, grow and meet new people. Trust that your only limitation in life is your own imagination. Be bold, kind and humble but don’t be afraid to leap when given the opportunity.

You probably don’t believe people when they tell you that time flies, but it does so don’t waste a moment on things that don’t matter. Tell the people that you love along the way how much they mean to you and REMEMBER that nothing in life is permanent—enjoy the good moments and know that the hard times won’t always be so hard. Try to be grateful and assume that everyone around you is doing the best they can as well.

Keep your sense of humor and trust that you’ll land on your feet.

In the next post, I will continue with more great interviews, like this one with Holly Gold.

Are you from Generation X? I want to hear what you think! Please comment below and participate in the conversation about What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School. What do you wish someone told you when you were eighteen?

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