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13 Sassy Women Share Their Best Advice

the best advice

I have written six features for Sass magazine about incredible women and their careers, and every single interview yielded inspiration for me both personally and professionally. For most of these, I’ve had the opportunity to work with three to four women whose stories all have to somehow fit within the confines of a thousand words. These tight quarters mean, inevitably, an often painful process of cutting quotes and content for length. (For the full story, check out the links at the end of this article.)

The words of wisdom and lessons learned from these women deserve a space of their own. Here are some of the standout pieces of the best advice from this assemblage of professionals, from starting a business to supporting other women to the elusive craft of work-life fit:


Best Advice on Motivation

Katie Kent
Katie Kent / Photo by Jessica Patterson Photography

I am constantly motivated by the new and evolving challenges that the job presents whether it is learning the strategy regarding the size or construction of modern buildings or working towards being able to operate new pieces of apparatus. It is not just burning buildings, sick people, and car crashes we respond to. We respond to water rescues, rescues that involve high angle rope systems, and we also work closely with the police on domestic issues and active shooter situations.
It is very inspiring to be a part of a huge “family” that you eat, sleep, work and train with for a large part of your life. You create longtime friends and acquaintances that aren’t found in every profession. If you ask me, I have the best job in the world.
– Katie Kent, firefighter/EMT, Howard County, Maryland

[I’m inspired by] individuals who persevere in difficult positions and silently do their jobs with little or no fanfare, simply because it is their duty to do it. Soldiers, teachers, first responders, emergency room personnel. They work hard because what they do is important to others.
– Dr. Donna Brazil, US Army Colonel (retired), Emmitsburg, Maryland

Sometimes being a solo musician and pursuing a music career feels a lot like making your own path in a wild forest. During those times when I feel spread thin, ambivalent, and lost in the wild woods, I reconnect to the peace that is the core of being human. Within this peace, I am whole, I am perfect just the way I am, and most importantly, I remember what I have to offer myself and the world. I offer peace, authenticity, and a time and space for people to let go and reconnect to their inner peace.
Cassidy Raye Ponton, musician who performs as CassiRaye, barista, yoga teacher, and artist, Shepherdstown, WV

Never let anyone tell you No. Never let anyone tell you that you’re not good enough. You are a queen and you do whatever you need to do to make yourself shine.
Ashli Cheshire, Frederick-based guitarist and songwriter for Cheshi


Best Advice on Keeping it Simple

Amy Stephens
Amy Stephens / Photo by Kelly Hahn Photography

As a kid, I remember telling my grandfather, “It’s raining on the hay!” And he said, “Amy, when it’s raining on my hay, it’s raining on my corn.” When the hay is cut down, ready to rake up and be bailed, you do not want that getting wet. But then you look at the next contour over and your corn is curled up and screaming for rain. If it’s raining on that corn, that corn is growing and it’s going to feed your animals. So, I believe there really is good in every situation.
Amy Stephens, Swine Production and Farmers Co-op Management, Libertytown, Maryland

Simplicity [inspires me]. And knowing that everyday is precious. Folks just going about their normal day could have one moment that changes everything. Makes it clear that most drama is made up and not worth buying into.
Kristine Yaroschuk, a civilian helicopter pilot for the Maryland State Police, Frederick Barrack

I am inspired by anyone who isn’t afraid to stand up for what is right regardless of public ridicule, or peer pressure. I also get inspired by people who keep moving toward their passion or goals in spite of someone else telling them they will fail.
Sharon D. Jacko, Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel (retired), Frederick, Maryland


Best Advice on Work-Life Fit

military women
Photo by Jessica Patterson Photography

I don’t think that “balance” is possible. I stopped looking for balance a long time ago and started looking for ways to make the different demands work together. Sometimes work took priority, sometimes one of the kids did—you simply have to do the best you can at covering the bases. We did that by sharing the responsibilities, investing in quality childcare, and becoming part of a community. You have to cut yourself some slack. You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to do it all, the house doesn’t always need to be spotless, and cereal for dinner once in awhile will not hurt you. All things in moderation…
Dr. Donna Brazil, US Army Colonel (retired), Emmitsburg, Maryland


Best Advice on Feminism

Sara Evans
Officer First Class Sara Evans / Photo by Jessica Patterson Photography

Don’t let anyone or anything hold you back … you want something, go get it. Hard work pays off I promise, I’m a living example of it.
Officer First Class Sara Evans, police officer, Emmitsburg, Maryland

I think that the biggest opportunity [for women] is for female empowerment, to uplift and celebrate our unique voices. The challenges that I have personally faced came directly from a few men who don’t trust my abilities or judgement. Overall, the men that I surround myself with, especially in the band, are incredibly supportive of my creative vision. I know that not every woman in the industry is as lucky. Even though the struggle may not be as difficult for me as a woman in the music world, we still live in a society that directly oppresses the female form and voice. That is a change I strive to be a part of.
Ashli Cheshire, Frederick-based guitarist and songwriter for Cheshi

I learned that because of my gender, I was going to have to fight tooth and nail for every shred of respect that I could get. The rock industry is almost exclusively male. The deck is stacked against women. As a woman in this [hardcore punk music] genre, I’ve found that you cannot get by simply doing what all the guys are doing. You’ve got to up the ante. As a woman, you’ve got to be prepared to work twice as hard as the guys for respect and recognition, but the payoff is worth it, because nobody can say you didn’t give it your all.
Lauren Kashan, herpetologist (reptile and amphibian biologist) and lead “screamer” of Sharptooth

People expect women to look and act in a certain way in all aspects of life and the music industry is no exception. So f*** that. Be loud, be crass, be too thin, too fat, whatever. Your talent will shine through what is socially correct.
– Adrienne Smith, assistant preschool teacher, lead vocalist of blues/soul pop group The Dirty Middle, Frederick, MD

Best Advice on Starting a Business/Risk-taking

Kelly Roberts
Kelly Roberts / Photo by Jessica Patterson Photography

There are so many things I have learned since I started [my own business], but one that has helped me most is having a balance. It’s easy—and possible—to get caught up and want to work 24/7. Force yourself to set aside personal time to take care of yourself and to do the things that are important to you. It will make you (and your family) enjoy your work much more! Have a good support system. There will be days where you ask yourself “what the hell was I thinking?” and you’ll need your husband, parents or friends to remind you why you started and where you want to go!
Kelly Roberts, handbag designer/maker kCityBags

Find the people that you love working with and never be afraid to ask for help.
– Anna Meadors, saxophonist for “punk-jazz/fuzz-rock” trio, Joy on Fire

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be disappointed when it doesn’t show up in the way that you imagined. Be open to the many ways growth can take place, however, and discern what you are willing to risk. Instead of thinking in terms of competition and comparison, think in terms of collaboration and commitment.
Cassidy Raye Ponton, musician who performs as CassiRaye, barista, yoga teacher, and artist in Shepherdstown, WV

Understand that it won’t be easy, but few things in life worth doing are. Ask for help and then learn from it. While there are always others willing to help you develop—it is all about developing the ability to do it yourself. You will be surprised and very proud of what you will be able to accomplish. And then, lead the way. Pay it forward.
Dr. Donna Brazil, US Army Colonel (retired), Emmitsburg, Maryland


Best Advice on Paying it Forward

Lauren Kashan
Lauren Kashan / Photo by Natural Artistry Photography by Andrew Murdock

I have the unique opportunity to write songs about the issues that women deal with on a regular basis as a female vocalist. Issues like catcalling, slut shaming, rape culture, double standards, mansplaining, and just what it’s like to be in a world where the odds are stacked against us. I get to write the songs that I’ve wanted to hear. As a result we get to help other women get involved and feel like they’re a part of the hardcore scene by writing music that is by us and for us. We have the chance to bring women’s anger to the forefront of our music, in a genre that has focused on men’s anger for decades. I can’t think of a more appropriate genre for women to get involved in. We’ve got a lot to scream about.
Lauren Kashan, herpetologist (reptile and amphibian biologist) and lead “screamer” of Sharptooth

Be yourself, because people love people that are true to themselves and respectful to everyone. Always have an open mind. I can teach a lot, but I have to learn a lot too, to be able to teach. If I don’t keep an open mind to new things that are happening, if I shut down as soon as I hear a new idea and I don’t hear it, I can’t turn around and teach in the right manner.
Amy Stephens, Swine Production and Farmers Co-op Management, Libertytown, Maryland


And Don’t Forget…

Most accidents happen on clear beautiful days because people let their guards down.
Kristine Yaroschuk, civilian helicopter pilot for the Maryland State Police, Frederick Barrack


Read Lindsay’s full articles on the following:
Female First Responders – Summer 2016
Women Who Rock – Fall 2016
Military Women – Spring 2017
Female Founders – Summer 2017
Women Artisans – Winter 2017

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