Our powerhouse volunteer since 2018, Miranda Forstall can teach us all something
Our volunteer Miranda Forstall has one main goal. She wants you to fail.
“I feel like so many people are burdened by what other people are thinking that they’re scared to problem-solve, they’re scared to make mistakes,” Forstall said.
She first noticed this pattern after she began volunteering at the Sackville Commons in September 2018. “We had volunteers that seemed to not be comfortable making decisions,” she said.
But fear of failure is not only something Forstall has recognized in others, but also in herself.
When she originally moved to Sackville, she “was so scared of what other people were thinking, that I might be a failure.”
Originally from Lisbon, Ohio, Forstall moved to Sackville in 2017 with her husband and two children. Previously, her family’s lifestyle had been characterized by frequent moving to support her husband’s academic career.
“We move around a lot, and whenever we move, I know there’s going to be a dip in my mood,” said Forstall, opening up about her experience with depression.
After arriving in Sackville, Forstall began volunteering at the Commons to combat her mental health challenges.
“I’d been out of the workforce long, being a stay-at-home mom, and coming here and just being in an office setting helped with my mentality of ‘I am more than a stay-at-home mom,’” Forstall said. “The minute I started working at the Commons and realized people care more about your brain and not how you look like, I wasn’t afraid to fail.”
But the Commons is not the only one deserving of credit –– Forstall herself has contributed substantially to the co-working space. In addition to hosting, she currently trains and supervises volunteers, manages the office space and performs administrative duties, and occasionally – if they’re lucky – treats her coworkers to baked goods.
So why does Forstall want you to fail?
For her, encouraging failure is tied to her belief in education.
“If you fix one problem, it often has a domino effect and fixes other problems too,” she said, citing her background in sociology. “So, finding that one problem is the key, and to me, that’s education.”
From instructing fitness classes to developing children’s programming at a pioneer museum, Forstall has worked in a variety of educational roles. Most recently, she has held the Chair of the Parent School Support Committee at Salem Elementary.
“I didn’t notice until recently… that the reoccurring theme [in my life] is me teaching people stuff,” she said. “And most of the people I’m teaching are younger people.”
Forstall is no stranger to the other side of the classroom, either. In addition her university degree, Forstall has certificates in construction and clowning and is also an award-winning public speaker.
The theme of teaching has followed Forstall into her most recent project, which centers around encouraging failure. With local illustrator Narissa Gallant, Forstall has been developing a children’s story series that follows the misadventures of Turnup, a pocket-sized elf.
Since its inception in 2019, the series has morphed into a larger, community-focused initiative. “The larger project is trying to engage people and encourage failure,” said Forstall, explaining that the stories are only a subset of the project and will be turned into books.
You can also catch Forstall at the Commons, where she is currently working on the second chapter of her failure project. A ClayMotion animation, the activity will document each time she messes up in the process.
To volunteer at the Commons like Forstall, and receive part or full membership benefits, email us about your interest and availability at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The Commons is a phenomenal place to volunteer,” she said, “It also provides amazing people who all care about each other…. You actually feel like people are looking out for you, and not just clocking in and clocking out.”