Looking for My Long Lost Role Model
I was wondering to myself the other day about how I got here. Not in a bad way, just in a sort of deep daydream that took a winding, long turn. It got me thinking about role models. It’s amazing and ordinary at the same time to think of all of the little and big decisions we make along the way that pave the path of our lives ultimately. What kept floating into these thoughts were also faces of people that really inspired me in one way or another. It’s quite moving to think of how someone’s actions or behavior can really change your life in a positive way without them really even knowing their own powers.
I bet some people could tell you right off the bat who their role model is with immediate gusto and pride. There are always those specific teachers that maybe cheered us on in ways that others did not. Others might struggle to come up with anyone that inspired them that was within reach so it might be a celebrity that they idolized. It got me thinking. I’m not rich, I’m not famous, I’m not living some crazy lavish life that I’m looking to thank these people for. I’m just alive, have a job, own the roof over my head, have a family, and most of all everything is OK. That’s the bottom line. My assumption is that it turned out OK because there were these little snapshots of my life that these people stayed framed in. A certain act of kindness, a gesture of love, a mannerism I deemed eloquent; in one way or another I learned valuable lessons from them. These weren’t people that were senior to me or authoritative figures. Which is what you likely think of when you hear the word “role model”. I remember thinking to myself in these little moments, “You need to follow their lead. They are teaching you, girl.” So I paid close attention.
My friend, Des, went through incredible loss in his life within his immediate family. In spite of his hardship, he is someone that makes a positive imprint on everyone’s hearts with his hilarity, honesty, and warmth. He was one of the first people to talk to me when I was a new, nervous freshman at a new high school. He accepted me immediately and to this day remembers what I was wearing on the first day we met. Thanks to Des, it is always important for me to make the new kid at the play date, the new friend at dinner, or the newbie in any situation really feel welcome. Did I mention his memory is a steel trap? Which reminds me – Desmond also inspires me to improve my memory. The first step will be for me to remember people’s names two seconds after they introduce themselves. Baby steps…
There is this strangely vivid memory from sophomore year of high school of a fourteen-year-old-boy, who was mentally challenged, who had dropped all of his folders and books all over the stairs while trying to get to class. My lovely friend, Lisa, swooped in while some kids made snide remarks under their breath. Lisa stopped and helped him pick up every single folder and book. It wasn’t a second thought. And if you could have seen the look on this boy’s face…he just beamed. In addition to this, when Lisa asked about your day she would give you her undivided attention and then always give some sort of compliment before walking away. She was beautiful and kind and she genuinely cared about whatever it was one had to say. I made a mental note that I should start smiling at people more and asking them about their days like Lisa. This would be better than racing to get to my next class and being anti-social. If it made me feel really great for someone to take their time to smile at me and have a quick chat, then I wanted to spread that feeling to others too. What a lovely quality that was – to leave someone feeling better off than they were just moments before.
Then there was this incredible woman, Erika, whom I met in my mid-twenties, who was the girlfriend of a close friend. She was probably 20 years older than me or so. She was really smart, a serious fashionista, and the owner of a very successful business that had an office in 2 or 3 different countries. To boot, she was also a mother, so in my head, she basically had unicorns and rainbows dancing around her. Her look still reminds me so much of Cate Blanchett. She is a woman who speaks very carefully – never too much, never too fast; always with poise and grace. She listens intently as well. I always admire anyone that has this quality – because I have a serious talking problem. Where there is dead air – I will fill it with words. What she unknowingly taught me: it’s so nice to sit and listen. Erika’s cool-as-a-cucumber, entrepreneurial energy reminded me to try to calm my inner yappy dog when I am conversing with someone. Still working on the poise and grace part. Bridget Jones is basically my inner doppelganger.
My friend of 14 years, Marci, fell ill with breast cancer 5 years ago. She is finally on the other side of it now, thankfully, but still has follow-up appointments from time to time. During her treatment she was extremely weak and sick, however, she continued to be the most selfless person I’ve ever known. She would send cards (and still does) for every single holiday to my kids. She’d ship birthday gifts to them without missing a beat as well. When speaking with her, she was always upbeat, even while tired, and she always wanted to hear every last drop of what was going on in our lives. I would hang up and feel awful for talking her ear off, and think of what must be going through her mind and how her body must feel. Selfless Marci. Caring for others – always – even while she was so needing constant care and support. This woman has the most beautiful heart I’ve ever known.
My sister’s drive is quite inspiring. She’s a badass who put herself through college all on her own and then did it again to get her Masters. Whenever I’m daydreaming about switching careers altogether, I just remind myself that I never want to go back to school. No thanks – all set here! Did I mention I cannot believe she got her Masters? I admire her drive!
Recently, I was talking to my friend Chris. She had just returned from traveling on business for three days, she was packing up to move, she was also getting her current home ready to sell, all while caring for her two kids that had the latest virus that’s been circulating. With all of that going on, she was apologizing for not having planned drinks for my birthday. Shortly thereafter, she managed to gather some friends together for a drink to celebrate. “Wow,” I thought to myself, “this is a very thoughtful woman right here.” How crazy for a friend to even think of me during such a busy, stressful time in her life? My birthday should have been the last thing on her mind! What a great friend.
Our role models may not be as easy to pinpoint as we think. Whether they inspire us in the flash of a few seconds or throughout our lifetime, I’m beginning to realize it’s important to think about them and how they have their own unique fingerprint on how our journeys unfold.
There should actually be a National Thank Your Role Model Day. There are special humans that exist out there. These living, breathing angels are rooting for you and are there to lead you in the right direction whether you’re floundering or just don’t have an obvious dependable guardian or support system nearby. I believe their unique stamp indirectly assists us in always trying to be the best version of ourselves.
Am I always the best version of myself? Hell to the no. Just ask my kids and husband. But thanks to these specific people, I began to hone in on these values and skills that I wanted to have and definitely did not possess. And I’m going to remember to talk about these examples with my children so they can learn too. Showing compassion and patience, demonstrating selflessness, expressing positivity when my world feels like it’s crumbling, being welcoming, trying hard to have a good memory (which is HARD), being a mindful conversationalist, dedicating myself to something when the odds are against me, and how to be an unbelievably great friend on someone’s birthday.