Faces of Menlo

Maria Fadiman is returning to her Menlo Park roots in a story telling performance set for August 3. “It’s about about my experience of being a National Geographic Explorer, researching around the world and being a self-proclaimed cool tough person!

“Then I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder (reaction to mold) and my world collapsed around me: having to throw away everything, tearing apart the house, learning to navigate my own irrational mold induced behaviors.

“I got help, worked with my body and my environment to get healthier, and life moved forward. I was forced to question my need to always be on the go, to be reaching for more. To stay healthy, I am exploring how to fit into my new self — and how great that can be!”

Maria grew up in the Menlo Oaks neighborhood, the daughter of documentary filmmaker Dorothy and psychologist and author Jim Fadiman. “Growing up with my parents, there were no limits on what I thought I could do,” she recalls. “I grew up not knowing there were boxes.”

She attended Peninsula School where climbing trees and planning class trips were as important as traditional academics. Entering Menlo School for high school required an adjustment.

“It was a whole new deal for me in so many ways,” she said. “At Peninsula, you wrote to express how you felt. At Menlo they expected us to know grammar. It was a huge culture shock!”

She eventually settled in and quickly realized how fortunate she was. Here was a place where she could talk to teachers after school, participate in sports and drama. Maria signals out drama teacher Stephen Gill “who always found a part for me in musicals even though I couldn’t sing!”

“Most important, I made the most wonderful friends there. A group of us just celebrated our 50th birthdays with a bicycling trip to Iceland.”

Adventure beckoned the day Maria, an Associate Professor in the Geosciences department at Florida Atlantic University, got a phone call saying she’d been selected to be an Emerging Explorer, a National Geographic program that funds and supports scientists, conservationists, educators, and storytellers.

“I recall thinking, ‘If I’d known to dream this, this is what I would have dreamed,'” she says.

Maria will be bringing that experience and more to her appearance on August 3. Free tickets are available online for what is expected to be a sell out event.

“I always wanted to come back and live here, but didn’t,” Maria says. “So, it’s great to be coming back, enveloped by family and the community I grew up in, people who had a huge influence in my life. It’s so welcoming and supportive!”

Still photos from video by Grant Taylor, courtesy of Marie Fadiman

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