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First Person

The Experience Questionnaire: Tara Westover

Tara Westover is a historian and memoirist. She is the author of the #1 New York Times Best Seller “Educated,” about her journey from a dysfunctional, survivalist family in rural Idaho to her pursuit of higher education.

Where do you come up with your best ideas? 
Usually when walking my dog. Naturally I never have a pen.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve received?
Belief. People believing in me when I was not able to do that for myself.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve given?
I hope I have also given that belief to other people. I aspire to.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Trying to imagine a future that was utterly different from the life I was used to.

If you had to choose a different profession, what would you do?
I don’t really think of myself as having a profession. I know what I want to do right now — what I want to build or create. I’ve no idea what will come later.

I don’t really think of myself as having a profession. I know what I want to do right now — what I want to build or create. I’ve no idea what will come later.

What is the most useful mistake you’ve made?
I got a PhD in history even though I didn’t really need one (because I am not an academic). But those were wonderful, valuable years. I’ve never regretted them. Luckily in the UK a PhD only takes four years.

What’s the strangest experience you’ve had?
That is difficult to say. I find almost everything about my current life to be extremely bizarre.

What opportunity do you regret passing up?
I can’t think of one. There must be something but my mind is a blank. Perhaps this is something that I do pretty well: I try new things to see if they will pan out. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. But I tend to try.

How do you relax?
Again, walking my dog. Reading in the mornings. Playing music with friends.

If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
I suppose I would visit Idaho or England. Both were a home to me, in their time. I miss them very much.

What was your most indelible childhood memory?
Funny you should ask. I actually wrote a book about it!

What is the most valuable thing you learned in school?
How to learn when not in school.

When you’re stuck, how do you get unstuck?
I go for a walk, or a I read a book, or I cook dinner. Anything to occupy my brain a little, but not too much. Usually the knot loosens eventually.

What is your proudest moment?
I think when I was accepted to college. I really didn’t expect to be. I didn’t have a high school diploma, or an equivalent. I did not believe that they would want me.

What would you like to experience before you die?
Parenthood, although it terrifies me.

For more, visit our Experience Questionnaire archive page.

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