Fearless Friends-Caitlin Brooking

Continuing with the "back to school" trend, this week's Fearless Friend is my friend Caitlin Brooking. Caitlin is going back to grad school after a 10 year hiatus (someone explain to me how we got this old). Caitlin moved to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina to do some fantastic volunteer work, and in her spare time is also a roller-derby referee, so she's not one to be afraid of much. But as I'm sure you can all imagine, going back to school after a long break can be a little terrifying in its own way. So here's Caitlin's fearless story in her own words:

How do you know Chewbacca's Mom?

We met while we were working for a magical community service program in college called FYSOP. And then we had many other collegiate adventures.

What are you doing for your career?

I’m about to start a Masters’ Degree in Sociology at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) and a fellowship with the McLean Institute of Public Service and Community Engagement. I keep having Warren Towers nightmares about my first day of school in 10 years. But it’s definitely time! And I will probably get to buy new pens.

What did you do before?

I was/am still part-time the Director of Program Development for the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service. I train people who run AmeriCorps programs in the state, and I try to recruit community organizations to start new AmeriCorps programs, and help them design the programs (my favorite part). I love working with people to figure out how to make good things happen where they are at. You have to finagle a lot of bagels to get there, but it’s always worth it to see people do things they never thought they could.

How did you get started doing your current career?

Well, it’s been a long weird journey. I started working in the nonprofit sector after college in Boston, but then I had the opportunity to move to Mississippi after Katrina and help start an AmeriCorps program there. I took that and stashed all my stuff in a storage unit, expecting to come back to Boston after 2 years. But here I am, 7 years later. Mississippi sticks to you like that.

Any advice for people chasing their dreams?

Sure! Learn enough about yourself to filter what others tell you. There is great advice out there, and bad advice, and advice that is OK but just doesn’t fit for you. Take the time to really think about and know yourself, and know the difference between all the advices. If you know you and what’s best for you, you can always watch out for yourself and keep your chase on track, and pick up some useful tidbits and tips from others along the way!

What are you most afraid of?

Mushrooms. Just regular ones. Did you ever see that episode of the X-Files when they think they are working on a case but really they’re trapped inside a giant mushroom that’s making them have a hallucination?? Scary stuff.

Favorite quote?

Hmmm there are a lot of long, kind of boring ones kicking around my facebook profile. I had the pleasure of hearing CT Vivian speak a few weeks ago, and he paraphrased Martin Luther King, Jr but it sounded good to me as is: “Let go of love of wealth and fear of death and you are unstoppable”.

Brittney Spears or Celine Dion?

Britney Spears. Bless her heart.

Koalas or Pandas?

Hmmm, I’m ambivalent. Is that OK? I just like bears.

What makes you feel fearless?

When I’m afraid of doing something, small or big, but I do it anyway. I try to do that as often as possible. Like today, I didn’t use GPS to find my way home from the grocery store (I just moved to a new town). Of course, I got lost, and there were youths and construction sites everywhere. But I tried it anyway. And it turned out OK, eventually I made it home. I’m afraid a lot, or at least nervous. I have no idea what I’m doing, to be honest, and I’m constantly wondering if I’m doing the right thing, or if I’m messing everything up. When you’re doing something new or weird, you never really know, and as you get older and weirder there seem to be fewer and fewer people to help you figure it out. But I gravitate toward things that make me want to stay up late reading about them, or talk to a stranger about them. There’s a mystery place between thinking about doing something (how, why, is this a good idea, when, where) and making a plan, and then seeing what happens after you do it. The trick seems to be taking the first few steps of the plan, and trusting yourself to figure it out along the way.

And now for some pictures:


This is what I imagine happens to everyone once they move to Mississippi: they are given a "welcome to Mississippi chicken".


Caitlin, reffing a roller derby game. She always has one eye open.


This is one of the only pictures of Caitlin and I together. Luckily, it's pretty perfect.




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