Strange places and skeletal faces

Hailing from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Northern Virginia, though not unfamiliar with Vermont, graduate student in counseling Sarah Golden has returned to Johnson State College ten years post graduation to work in the SERVE office. As the coordinator of community service, Golden organizes and runs mentoring programs and puts together community service opportunities in Johnson and the surrounding towns.

Why did you come to Vermont originally?
I don’t really know. I had some friends that I wanted to visit—I was planning on moving to California actually to start school, and I had never been to New England so I thought it was a wise idea to drive here by myself in the middle of the dark, in a blizzard, and I just stayed.

You stayed from then on or you went back and came back later?
No, I stayed.

You came to Johnson [State College] right? Why did you decide on Johnson in particular?
The first time or the second time?
The first time because it was two miles down the road from where I was living and I had discovered that I really liked anthropology and I met with Bill Brower who was not yet retired obviously, and just kind of fell in love with the program and decided to apply and I got in.
The second time—there was like a ten year span in between—I was looking at loads of counseling programs all over the place and once again kind of came down to between here and California. I decided San Francisco was so prohibitively expensive that I would rather come back somewhere that I could actually afford. I’m kind of a masochist so I wanted to see how I could deal with the winters again and pick up everything on a string and leave it behind.

What is your current dream job?
I’m living it.

What about when you were little Sarah?
I wanted to be a cashier. I did. I either wanted to be a cashier because I thought cash registers were totally amazing or I wanted to work at a gas station just so I could use the squeegees on peoples’ windshields.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I don’t want to grow up.

What type of service do you feel most passionately about?

I would say anything that has to do with working with people—any kind of vulnerable or disadvantaged populations, which is why I want to get into counseling. I think there’s a massive need for that, and in particular there’s some pretty disturbing statistics regarding mental health and people’s safety in general in terms of domestic violence and sexual abuse in Lamoille County. Any organizations that do any sort of work where there’s direct service with people who are in cases of trauma. That would be of the most interest to me.

Whom do you admire most and why?

I’m not good at isolating favorites or bests necessarily. I admire a lot of people for different reasons. I admire the consistency and unconditional lovingness of my mother. I admire the robust wackiness of Tom Robbins. There are certain musicians that inspire me. I love the paintings of Alphonse Mucha and Hieronymus Bosch because they take me to places in my brain I couldn’t go without their visual contributions to life. I just have such an array of interests that I could never really say this one person is the most of everything.

You said you have some musicians whom you admire; what role does music play in your life?

Sort of the dual role of being something I feel I can escape into and something that validates me. There are certain aspects of music that I can really relate to and I find it very grounding because its as though someone is putting lyrics and sounds together that almost form a soundtrack for me and other times I like to choose things that are so discordant from my mood that they just take me completely away from what’s going on.

Do you play any instruments?

No, not at all.

Do you wish that you did?

I used to wish that I was a guitar player, but there are plenty of those so I’ll just be good at something else.

What do you want to be the most ‘good’ at?

In general? If I could pick one thing in the whole world to be good at? Some form of healing, which is why I went into counseling. I just think that there’s so much pain everywhere all the time, which is really starting to distract people from even their most basic necessary parts of life. People just feel so isolated, so anything I could ever do to take pain away or help people understand what their pain is so that they can work through it—that would be amazing.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I don’t know if there’s necessarily one thing that I’ve done that stands out. I like certain parts of me that I’ve cultivated. Like, I think there’s a fearlessness in me that is an achievement in and of itself. Particularly as it applies to travel, which is basically my favorite thing to do and I prefer to do it alone. So I think each time I venture out to a new place with the intention of learning it and experimenting with language and culture and immersion and things like that each in of themselves are achievements that relate back to the achievement of just not being willing to be afraid.

What’s your favorite place that you’ve travelled? Why?

I would say the Westfjords of Iceland would probably be my favorite. The whole country is just completely otherworldly. There really aren’t any words for it. It’s ethereal and surreal—I’ve been really enchanted by places like little secluded alleyways in Paris, or deep in the jungles of Mayan ruins in southern mexico, places like that—but Iceland has a real interplanetary feel to it and there’s just nothing that you can remotely compare it to.

How would you describe yourself?

I don’t know, that changes daily. Some days I think I’m really great and interesting and other days I’m just a little bored and irritated with myself. It really depends on my mood. I think my favorite way that I’ve every been described was ‘engagingly eccentric.’ It was in a letter of recommendation that someone wrote for me and I took that as one of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten.

What is the first thing that you would do if you won the lottery?

How much did I win?

Endless money.

Wow, endless money. I’d get a lawyer. Like, a really good one. Top of the line defense attorney.

What’s the second thing that you would do?

I would buy a plane and hire a pilot and as I’m coasting over the ocean to whatever my next destination is, start picking some solid charities that I can throw some serious cash toward.

What’s your favorite childhood memory?

Okay, I’m going with the first thing that popped in my head. So for whatever amazing reason, I got to go see Guns N’ Roses when I was 9. My mom let my uncle take me to see Guns N’ Roses and I just have like this intensely vivid memory of going into the bathroom during intermission. My uncle is waiting for me outside and just like the most stereotypical, wonderful, big-haired, full-on prostitute gear roadie chicks all just completely fussing over me in the bathroom. I was just this little kid wearing clothes not un-similar to what I’m wearing now, actually. Just making such a huge deal over the fact that I was there and I knew all of the words to the songs. It was pretty awesome.

What’s one of your favorite memories from JSC the first time?

I did a lot a lot of art. I was in a studio art minor and so the facilities are really, really different than—they’ve grown so much and I wish I had time to work in them. But just collectively some of my favorite memories were either being in the dark room for like 8 hours at a time or being in the welding studio for 8 hours at a time. Just doing things really creatively to the point where I completely lost sense of the fact that time was even passing or where I was and just went into that thing they call ‘the zone’ and emerging with a final product that had completely been made by my own two hands. I miss that, and that was really impactful for sure.

What’s your favorite artistic medium?

I would just have to go with a total cop-out route with that and say multimedia. Particularly photography and sculpture, but any kind of assemblage work, or…I don’t know. It just depends on what kind of mood I’m in. Sometimes I want to sit and work with plaster all night and other times I just want to order a ton of film and take my old, actual film camera out and spend a day taking pictures of like macro shots of bricks.

Where is your least favorite place that you’ve travelled?



Can I just say that the biggest statue in the airport is George Herbert Walker Bush?

Is there something that happened in Texas?

No, there’s nothing that happened in Texas and I think that’s why I dislike it so much.

What’s the strangest place that you feel like you’ve travelled?

There were different places that were strange for different reasons, like the catacombs in Paris. That’s a really strange place because you’re, you know, underground literally surrounded by the bones and skulls of like 6 million people that they just ran out of space for in graves. So that has a certain level of strangeness to it, but at the same time I could say that I was more uncomfortable in like a diner in Alabama where it’s like a scene in a movie where a needle skips across a record and everybody has confederate flag patches on their jackets and they all turn and look at you like they’re not sure if they should just murder you or try to have a conversation. There’s a lot of different kinds of strange and strange is my favorite so I could go on and on for that one.

How did you find yourself with the dead of Paris?

It’s just somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. I’ve been to Paris quite a few times and it was one of those interesting, small-world, friend of a friend connections. Someone I knew in Burlington had a friend living in Paris working for the United Nations and I ended up meeting up with this girl for coffee and realized that neither of us had done this and it was something we were both really interested in so I actually got to do it with sort of a buddy, which is interesting because most things like that I’d experience alone.