The worst of Hurricane Irene has come and gone and thankfully there was no real damage in my area of Massachusetts. Sitting at my open window, during the 'after storm,' the gusts of winds pulled the sounds of sirens in the distance and fire trucks continuously zoomed by. We had a ton of branches and leaves all over the yard but thankfully, no water in the basement. The pool damn near over flowed but we didn't loose power. The tops of our 50 foot pines came down a little more (since the ice storm in 2008) and twigs and sticks flailed about but the windy flurries eventually became sparse. I am incredibly lucky. The damage in Vermont and parts of Connecticut, New York, North Carolina and the other states that were hit, is near devastating but that is another blog for another day.
Last week, we kept getting pounded with beautiful days, then mini-pre-storms but I beat the rain everyday with my jog. It's 'cause "I've got them moves like Jagger." Watching Maroon 5's new video, "Moves Like Jagger" while cooling down after a work-out the other day, I was brought back to being a high school junior, meeting the boys of the band, at a show in Dartmouth College's gymnasium. That memory was a mental bridge to recalling who my "high school celebrity crushes" had been back in 2004. My biggest and longest celebrity crush was always, the college student, Julia Stiles. Then there was the beautiful "7th Heaven" star, Jessica Biel. For the boys, I always kept an eye out in the magazines for, the bad boy: Shane West, the athlete: Andy Roddick, the golden boy: Paul Walker and the singer: Adam Levine.
Looking back on it all, I'm not sure if I wanted to be with them or just be them; successful, rich, talented, admired and attractive.
I never really liked the term, "hero." A hero, to me, is someone who pulls babies from burning houses, or who talks someone off a ledge, or who saves a drowning woman. Someone who rescues kittens from trees. Someone like, Batman. I remember the first day of school each year. The teacher would pass around index cards for us to write our name/nicknames, contact info, our favorite class, something interesting about ourselves… and our hero. No one had ever legit saved my life before but my parents had given me life. Their names were the best answer I could give. To this day, not one person has saved my life so I'm left technically hero-less and pondering the influence that non super-human people have had on my life.
Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, who are the Indigo Girls have been a constant inspiration in my life since day one. Their music has flowed through my home on weekends since I was a kid. My family's roots, buried in music, have always been one of the many ways we stay so connected. When I first had the moment of realization that Amy and Emily were positive influences on my life, I was a freshmen in high school and I almost felt "embarrassed" because their genre was not the genre my peers were listening to on the radio at the time. It was hard enough to feel as different as I did but the girls in time, taught me to be myself and to proud of who I am. They encouraged me to 'come out' to my friends. They encouraged me to learn how to play guitar. They encouraged me to write and to be as different as I could be. They inspired me with their talents and their passion for activism. They travel, they spread love and they support gay rights, the environment, native americans, Greenpeace and women's rallies across the country. They have toured with positive groups like Amnesty International, Rock For A Remedy, Honor The Earth, Rock The Vote and the list goes on. I have been attending their shows for ten years now and over those years, I have traveled to places, met people, made best friends, done and seen things things I never ever would have, if it wasn't for those Atlanta, Georgia folk/rock girls. They have helped shape my life for the best and I am eternally grateful. Amy and Emily will forever remain my largest positive influences.
Even while watching certain people over the years, on MTV's realty show, "Real World," I have found mentors and been inspired in the most unique cast members. Cast members like Pedro, from San Francisco's 1993 season, made a huge impact. Pedro fought to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS. He fought to get his voice heard. Just because he had a blood disease, did not mean his blood ran a different route than someone without a blood disease. Other cast members have taken college courses, maintained a 'no loose' attitude, participated in internships, built a home with Habitat For Humanity, volunteered time at Food Shelters, created resumes, became writers and wrestlers and many cast members in their early twenties have interviewed and failed for their dream jobs. That is real and that is what I appreciate about that silly show. That is also why I have applied for Real World twice now. I want to be a person who strives for their dreams. I do not want to appear on television to drink and scream, I want the youth of America to see me thrive in a new professional endeavor and do good for the people around me. I want to be a positive influence on the audience watching, to bring positive change to their lives so maybe they will pay it forward. There can never be enough of that kind of enthusiasm on the 'boob tube.'
I doubt I will ever be on television, so I need to bring that enthusiasm to my own reality. Being influential and being influenced are both equally strong and equally important emotions. Everybody needs a positive influence throughout their lifetime and everyone should also feel what it is like to be that positive influence in someone else's life. Though, we sure do know that not everyone is fortunate enough to have a real role model. Not everyone has a positive influence that they can look up to, to learn how to be a better person. If I can be that enthusiastic energy, shining in someone's existence, I know that I am on the road to arriving at my goal of changing the world. I know that people already admire me and are inspired by my drive to help, my fight to think positively and my semi-motivational stamina. Those people mean the world to me. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.
When I was super little, I use to tell my mom I was going to live with her and my dad forever. That is a normal thought for a four year old but as I came into my own, I realized how unrealistic that idea actually is. I remember being scared of growing up. I didn't want to branch out on my own. I was nervous to attend a college that was away from home. I was scared to choose a career and succeed, because what if I didn't succeed? I am an only child, so I had to figure these things out on my own. I was left with the confusing knowledge of, "I don't want to leave but I can't stay here." While realizing that sticking around my hometown would be easier, the fear of knowing I could do whatever I wanted with my life was overwhelming. Easier is never the route to take. Ever. We can not evolve when we take Easy Street.
I learned from my influences to be the best person I could be each day, by encouraging others to do the same. We can all succeed in whatever crazy dreams we may have with will-power, self control and confidence. I have not mastered these qualities but I still try proving to myself that I can be courageous enough to conquer any quest I embark on. The more traveling I do, the further I can spread my light. Life is not trouble-free, it still makes me nervous but when someone witnesses me achieving my goals, I may be inspiring them to do the same. In which case, I have triumphed.
Last April, when I was living in Austin, one night, out with some friends, I received an email congratulating me on finally being selected to serve on an AmeriCorps, NCCC team in Sacramento, California this Fall. With wide-eyes, I jumped into the air and called almost everyone I knew. After six years, I had finally been selected for the program that I knew I could be an asset to. No matter what our goals are, always know that they are most certainly achievable with patients and hard work. What we each ultimately desire deep inside us is never just handed to us. The journey may be exhausting and the work may be strenuous but the target is always straight ahead. It is just the path that is chosen that may sometimes lead us the 'long way' through the labyrinth.
I have learned that it is less effort to present a positive attitude, rather than wallowing in negative emotion. Stay focused on what is possessed and what is attainable rather than what is lacked. For instance, instead of saying, "I should be feeling content, active and comfortable…" tell the world "I could feel the best I ever have, I can feel loved and I will take a step towards being productive." If we surround ourselves with positive energy, nothing but good things will fall into our paths. I ask of you to fill your hearts with some compassion and I'll continue to surround myself in love. Recognize what you love. Love your plants, your pets, your friends, your family, your favorite song or pillow case, a golden, sunny morning or the way a windy evening, through an open window, can sound like the ocean when you close your eyes. Not every day is perfect but every day is beautiful. We need to find what makes our heart sing. Reflect every night on one iota of intelligence that was learned that day. Focus on that knowledge in order to be a better person the next day. Do something for someone else that will make their heart sing and I bet yours will belt out even louder.
With good-will and will-power, I have progressively praised my icons for their inspiration. The influences in my life, all took part shaping me into who I am today. I feel extremely lucky to be happy and healthy. I feel extremely lucky to have stuck with my goals and to finally be selected to participate on an AmeriCorps, West Coast, NCCC team. I have placed respectable people on pedestals in order to mimic their qualities so I can be the best person I can be each day. It is now time to be an inspiration. Please stay happy and healthy and stick to what goals are known because I promise, it gets better. I learned from my high school celebrity crushes to stay studious, feel beautiful and talented, play by my own rules, stay active, smile and sing my heart out but my father always encouraged a penny pinching, responsible attitude and my mother graced me with her light hearted, care free social skills. They have both always supported me in almost every decision I have conjured, even and especially when they didn't want to. They gave me life. They are my heros.