University of Vermont

Vermont Quarterly

Gail Sheehy ’58

Gail Sheehy's Daring book cover

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UVM PEOPLE

Gail Sheehy ’58

PIONEER   

Author Gail Sheehy’s 1976 book, Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life, was named one of the ten most influential books of our time by the Library of Congress. (Many credit that book for coining the now ubiquitous term “Aha moment.”) She has profiled world figures such as Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, and
Hillary Clinton, and is counted among the pioneers of the “New Journalism” of the sixties and seventies. 

FIRST PERSON

Sheehy looks inward in her seventeenth book. Published last fall, Daring: My Passages is a memoir, and she says writing it was a challenge beyond any of her past work. “To actually delve into your own motives and thoughts and fears and try to be honest with yourself, it’s like pulling apart your ribs and doing an excavation underneath there. You find some jewels, and you find some bitter stones, and you find some expanses that are almost inexplicable.” 

MOMENT OF TRUTH

Sheehy says she found the process of writing her memoir “cleansing” and encourages others to document their own stories, “to give a blessing to the life that we’ve lived.” She notes that self-honesty becomes increasingly important as people move into their sixties and beyond. “Taking an inventory of your life, what you’ve accomplished and what’s missing.  So being honest with yourself—changing what you can and accepting what you can’t—is a very important part of this afternoon of life. You can’t afford to have a ‘false-self’ anymore. This is it. This is, you know, the sub-totaling time.”

DARE

When she’s asked what advice she’d want to share with today’s generation of young women at UVM, Sheehy says, “I’d want to tell them to dare. That’s what I found, when I came to the end of my memoir, has been the theme of my own life. I think it is very important to encourage young women, in particular, to be daring. Take chances. Travel to some really far off or unfamiliar place when you’re in your college years to find out how you survive. Expose yourself to other parts of the world; look back at your own country and see its strengths and its flaws.” Sheehy invites her fellow UVM women to share their own stories at sheehydaringproject.com, #DoYouDare.

Read an interview with Gail Sheehy at uvm.edu/vq/alumniprofiles.

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