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Condition of The Month: June – Who Inspires You?

June 7, 2014

GUYS! WHEN DID JUNE HAPPEN?!

I feel like I always say this but, seriously, has spring gone by too fast for anyone else? Now that June is here and my Grand Euro Adventure is coming to a close I’m really feeling the pressure of heading back to my ‘real life’ in the states (and finally figuring out something like a career). When I left for Europe I hoped that come June I would have everything sorted out, but here I am a few weeks from home and still no plan in sight.

So for this month’s COTM I’ve asked my fellow princesses to talk about who inspires them and how they hope to inspire others. Maybe by thinking about the types of lives we want to lead we’ll be better able to place ourselves within them. And hey, a little reminder of what matters can’t hurt, right?

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cinderslut tileInspiration! What a great topic. I just went with the first three people who came to mind, though many other people around me have influenced and inspired me throughout my life. To start with, there’s my husband. Cliché, I know, but I really love the guy. He isn’t without his flaws, but as I’ve gotten to know him over the years, as I’ve seen him at his worst and his best, I continue to be inspired. He’s easily the smartest person I know, and the things he’s been able to accomplish academically, in research, and in his career definitely impress me. Along with that, I’m inspired by how hard he works. While I tend to be a bit of a slacker at times, adept at knowing how I can get by with the least effort, he takes work, school, or projects at home seriously, and, as a result, he always produces quality work. He inspires me because he teaches me things, and he’s always trying to learn more himself. He makes me want to work harder and be better.

Then, if I think about famous or noteworthy people in the world that I admire, a name that quickly comes to mind is Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012, who has since become a world-renowned spokeswoman for girls’ education. She looks just like the students I myself was teaching in October 2012, which is both terrifying and sobering. Malala grew up in rural Pakistan, enduring living conditions I’ll never have to experience, but loved going to school so much she refused to stop, even after receiving death threats. When I look around American public schools, I am awed at the students who will skip school with only the thinnest shred of an excuse. Malala had every excuse in the world not to continue her studies, but she did anyway, and she has never stopped speaking out for her beliefs. She’s inspiring—I’d recommend her book I am Malala for more information about her.

And while we’re on the topic of education, something very close to my heart, I’d like to say that teachers are the third “person” I find inspiring. I’ve known so many great ones who inspired me to pursue my own education and become a teacher. I’ve seen first-hand the work that is required and the sheer amount of crap they put up with, all for the sake of their students. Included in this shout-out are my grandmother, who moved to Cuba in the 1940s to teach and continued to teach high school for decades to help support her family, my mother-in-law, who after doing this job longer than I’ve been alive still puts in more hours than any teacher I know, my aunt, who is still teaching Kindergarten as she nears age 70, and numerous other friends, family members, and coworkers. It’s a selfless job, and they’re generally quite underpaid, but their legacy is priceless.

My hope is that my own students will be as inspired by me as I have been by the educators in my life. At the end of my first year of teaching, my kids showered me with so much love and appreciation. I knew then that I had succeeded in some small part—I had inspired them, and that made every long hour I had spent worth it. In two weeks I’ll see those same students cross the stage as high school graduates, and let me tell you: I can’t freaking wait.

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little merskank tilePeople I am inspired by?  Well, as a Christian, I spend a lot of my life trying (and failing) to emulate Jesus, who was super inspirational.  Loving people, caring for the weak, the outcasts, the poor, and not being afraid to stand up to the big know-it-alls of his time.  Saying that we need to love everyone, even our enemies.  I can’t think of anyone more inspirational.

Finding other examples of inspirational people is harder for me.  I mean, almost everyone I know (both in real life and throughout history) has some traits that I find inspirational mixed others I wouldn’t want to emulate.  It’s the nature of the human condition—none of us are perfect.   However, I would say that recently I have been feeling challenged by those figures in history that were able to do what they think was right without caring a whit what other people think.  Think about Martin Luther.  Now imagine you were in Luther’s place: breaking from the one holy church—being excommunicated by the Pope whom most everyone believes holds the keys to heaven.  Now that takes guts.  Serious guts.

I was recently one of his treatise where he declared that he would ‘freely speak my mind’ regardless ‘if any of the Catholics laugh or weep’.  I have a hard time stomaching even a hint of disapproval from those around me, and here is Luther alienating the majority of the world.  And he doesn’t care.   You can feel it in his letters—he surely cares about what God thinks—but wooing the approval of the leaders of his time (or anyone else for that matter) is at the bottom of his list.  Now, Luther’s actions are not universally admirable.  Beyond not caring what others thinks, sometimes he goes out of the way to insult them with egregious insults and doesn’t seem to put very much into understanding other people or their perspectives  (If you think I am joking, try out the Luther insulter and you too can be insulted by Luther: http://ergofabulous.org/luther/ ).  So yeah, I wouldn’t say he is a very good example for ‘loving your enemies’.  However, I am inspired by his confidence in God.  Luther never spent time kowtowing to others or shying away from confrontation—things I am guilty of way too often.

Now finally, the question of whom I inspire?  I am not sure.  I would say that I try to inspire academics around me by not stressing continually about my work.  Of course, I am imperfect at this, and all the time catch myself stressing or obsessing.  But I do believe that the kind of general over-whelming sense of stress and gloom that can arise in graduate school is destructive.  The end of the world does not occur if you don’t hand in your thesis on time—the end of the world does not occur if your chapter isn’t as good as you’d like it to be.  I think it is easy to fall into a false perspective that raises your individual daily trials to a position above all else in your life.  After all, if you’re looking there is always something to stress about.

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sleeping booty tileI love that my parents never stop moving. They came to meet me in Italy for ten days in April and I’ve never been so tired in my life, the three of us running around ruins and cities from dawn till dusk. They work hard and play hard, always managing to stay focused on the present even though their lives are spinning fast. They build closets and gardens on the weekends after bike rides and yoga classes, ski on their mornings off and play poker on the weekends. They have great friends who better their lives and have no trouble connecting with strangers. They get up early and talk about their days, stay up late to finish things for work or a project for their friends.  As cheesy as it sounds, I want to be (almost) exactly like them when I grow up. What better way to live your life than to take advantage of the time you’re given?

Sophomore year of high school a new girl showed up and my life has never been the same since. Julia and I had math and physics classes together and her enthusiasm to learn was unlike anything I’d seen. She loves life and so many things in it, talking passionately about film, music, landscape, political change, horses, medicine and writing just to name a few. What I love about her most is that she isn’t just interested in these things she goes after them too, taking the steps she needs to make what she wants a reality. She’ll start a conversation with a stranger and then give them her card, seek out the best in the field and then ask for an internship. She makes things happen and encourages me to do the same. When I’m nervous or insecure about what I want or how to go about it I think of her and know that she would tell me to try anyway. Sure she may change her mind next week and throw herself completely into something else, but isn’t that what life is about, the full on attempt?

But honestly, as awesome as all the real people in my life are, none of them inspire me as much as Spiderman. For the last few months I’ve started to think about Spiderman every day (it’s been easy since everywhere around the world children and adults are wearing Spiderman t-shirts). He’s become a source of strength and responsibility for me, someone who helps me get through hard things and inspires me to have fun while doing it. He reminds me that life is short and I have a duty to be my best self and help when I can, that I owe it to the world to do the many things I’m capable of. Sure, I don’t have to chase through the train station to return someone’s dropped ticket – but Spiderman wouldn’t even hesitate.

But he’s imperfect too, just a kid who is trying his best and never quite fully succeeds. He makes mistakes and is always just a little behind, exhausted because there is always so much to do in a day. Do I always do my best or take the time to do all I can? No, definitely not. But when I think of him I know that next time I’ll do better, that in the consistent attempt I’m making a difference.

I hope I inspire people to do all these things and more. I hope I lead by example, helping people explore their surroundings and say yes to new experiences. I hope the people around me work to see other points of view, and are reminded to be kind, generous and easy going. I hope I’m diverse and strong, intelligent and reasonable. I hope I inspire people to be happy, to see that the world is an incredible and beautiful place.

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snowwhore tileI’m sure I could name a lot of famous heroes from history past and present like Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela who I do definitely admire for their dedication and spirit of love.  But the people who really affect me, have the ability to speak into my life and change me for the better, are the extraordinary ordinary people who populate the spaces of my everyday life.  So who are these top three people?

(in no particular order)

  1. Cinderslut: I don’t know anyone else who has determination quite like Cindy does. I met her in the first week of our freshman year at college, and ever since then she has blown me away with her ability to set goals and conquer them.  Whether that’s deciding that she wants to be a teacher and acing her way through college to make it happen, or knowing that her brothers need a role model and forcing them in any way possible to have real conversations with her about what they want out of life.  She helps me find strength that I didn’t know I had.
  2. Merskank: You would be hard pressed to find someone who is more loyal or truly caring than Merskank. This fall will mark 20 years of friendship for us, and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have chosen anyone else to be with me during the crazy years of growing up.  There were some seasons that we didn’t spend as much time together, but we always came back together.  She is my sounding board and often the voice of wisdom when I feel that I’m losing my mind.
  3. Booty: She streaked into my life as bright as a comet and I continue to follow her shining trail.  She taught me to grab as much out of life as you can. I often find myself trying to see the world as she does, because it is more beautiful that way.  I can honestly say that I learned to love myself better because of the way she loves and encourages me.  Everyone wants to be around her because she brings out the best in everyone.

*** Snow didn’t notice there was a part two to this question so while she thinks about the ways she hopes to inspire other people I figured it couldn’t hurt to write a quick paragraph of my own. I still want to see yours though! Snow inspires us in so many ways. She’s loving and enthusiastic, tough and enduring, raw and openhearted. She fights for what she believes in and forgives in an instant. She takes the time to appreciate the world (and people) around her and she trusts herself to know what is right. She is radiant and intelligent, creative and joyful, unique and loyal. She’s a blessing and everyone is the better for knowing her. She inspires me to show my love for people, because life is so much better when shared.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 7, 2014 8:25 am

    Aww, hey, we are pretty inspiring, aren’t we? 😉 Also I LOVE that Luther Insult-Generator. Made. My. Day.

    • thelittlemerskank permalink*
      June 9, 2014 7:04 am

      Haha, I found that one day when trying to locate a Latin version of one of his treatises online. Glad you appreciated it!

  2. snowwhore permalink*
    June 7, 2014 6:53 pm

    Sorry I forgot the second part of the question. You should just take it as a compliment because I’d rather talk about how awesome you guys are.
    But as for how I wish to inspire others, it comes down to one word. Love. You can groan and whisper ‘how cheesy’ under your breath, but I know how powerful love really is. Not the hallmark greeting card kind of love, but the ‘I am going to keep encouraging you and pushing you and walking beside you’ kind of love. The ‘if you are in a bad place I am going to camp there with you and just be in your life and cry right along with you until we start to see the light again’ kind of love. It’s easy to say inspiring words, but people never remember words for more than a couple weeks. What people remember are actions. That is how you plant inspiration that will last. And that is what I want to do and who I want to be.

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