Recently, as part of her National Junior Honor Society application, my 13-year-old daughter had to write about the person she most admires. She chose a fellow classmate, someone who took the time to encourage and inspire her in her violin endeavors.
Upon reading her essay, my thoughts took me back to my teen years. Wasn’t everyone instructed to choose a personal hero at least once during school? I remember the assignment, but the fact that I honestly can’t recall who I most admired back then says something to me.
Quite frankly, I think I was simply too young and inexperienced to do the assignment justice. I certainly could have never imagined the number of inspirational people I would come to meet.
As an adult, taking another stab at this task intrigued me. But as I sat down to actually write it, I found it incredibly difficult to narrow it down to just one person. Fortunately for me, I was able to grant myself permission to change the parameters. So here goes.
First and foremost, I admire my father. It may seem an obvious choice, but over the years, I’ve learned the details of what my dad went through losing my mom when I was young. I put myself in his shoes now, and I cry at what he was forced to face. But he didn’t give up. He went on to remarry and help raise not just his own three children, but two more. How can I not admire that?
And yes, I absolutely admire my stepmom, who walked into a situation that I suspect was 10 times more difficult than giving birth to her two daughters. She had a rough road ahead of her, but as hard as it was sometimes, she stuck it out. In the end, we all became better people because of her. She is at the top of my list, for sure.
I admire my former running coach, who encouraged me, believed in me and never let me think badly about myself. I watched him devote his life to his family and students. Their accomplishments were his successes, too. He never wanted credit or recognition. He just wanted to see the people he cared about soar. And they did, partly because of him.
I admire my dear friend Toni, who battled cancer and fought for her life right up until the day she died. I can still see the smile on her face and hear the sound of her voice when she called my name. That smile rarely faded, even when her prognosis was grim, even as she was enduring painful treatments and suffering from the side effects. Her strength was wholly awe-inspiring.
And I admire my nephew who recently made a decision to “come out” to his family and friends, knowing there would be those who would be cruel and unfriend him on Facebook. The inspiration that he has given others who find themselves struggling with the same decision is purely magical. He is one of the most kind-hearted, sweet-spirited, courageous guys I know.
I have only scratched the surface of all the people I have come to admire in my nearly 40 years of life.
That essay from grade school? Sure, it still holds value and is important to write. My daughter certainly learned from it. But if you ask me, it’s the essay that gets written midlife and beyond that gives us a true vision of the awesome people who have touched our lives in a special way. It’s a heartwarming realization, I think. And I urge you to give it a try.