Thursday, February 3, 2011

Heroes & Heroines

Whenever people ask me who inspires me, I used to draw a blank. I find inspiration in random objects on the street more often than with people. In the last week alone, I found a queen of spades playing card and a tampon while walking to work (I kept the card for luck, for all logical reasons left the tampon where it was) I remember reading this book when I was in middle school, one of those girl-power, self-help for the under 15 year old set books written by preteen girls. Every girl contributing to the book had a hero in distinguished individuals including Hilary Clinton, Michelle Kwan, and Kate Winslet. To a lesser known, but still important extent, they also cited their mothers, best friends, and grandmothers on this list (it should be noted none of the contributing writers had a male hero). All the while I'm reading I thought, "I don't admire any of these people. None of them inspire me."

What I get more often than not, rather than inspiration, is encouragement from the people I admire. My family and friends are at the root of this. Nobody I know is going to tell me, "If you dream it, you can be it!" or "Shoot for the stars!" or any other cheesy motivational slogan that you only semi-believed when you were 10. The people who surround me are more pragmatic than sugar-coated. They won't hold my hand through life when I take the strides I need to in order to grow up, call me out whenever I'm particularly self-centered, and refuse to sympathize with me over issues that I consider to be core meltdown-esque difficulties. These same people, though realistic, are also optimistic. A bad event, even one you don't think you can recover from fully, is always viewed as a blessing in disguise. The pros generally outweigh the cons and as is my best way of coping with any trouble, laughter and clever wordplay can get you through the grayest of days.

I've given it some mulling around in the cranium and discovered that indeed I do have a few heroes and heroines. One is a comedian who's just as well know for his signature poof of hair as he is with his snark and impeccably timed wit. One is an author who dreamed a dream of getting married to an English prince and made a journey of near-Biblical (or 20-something idealist) proportions to get to London. One isn't even real, but speaks for everyone I know, young and old, in her smart and sharp narrative in 5 books chronicling her life.

Conan O'Brien

Team Coco for life. I grew up on his writing for The Simpsons (Jub Jub forever), stayed up late every evening for his Late Night show cheering when New State Quarters or Cactus Chef showed up on the screen, and even got to see him live when he did the Tonight Show.

He made me laugh all of the time. The kind of laughter where you cried and your cheek muscles ache from arching upward for an hour straight. To me, this is something not many people that I don't know personally can do. I like comedians and enjoy watching Larry David's TV shows, Chris Rock's stand-up, and think that Aries Spears and Debra Wilson by all rights should have a TV show by now, but even with these people, I don't laugh all of the time. There's time for pause which is some cases can extend itself longer than welcome. Mr. O'Brien, just by pretending to swim or flipping his orange puff of hair to the side, got me giggling like a schoolgirl every time.

He worked hard and did not get anything handed to him in life (a recurring trait in all of the heroes & heroines I have on my list). In fact, he got stripped of certain moments in life that were rightfully his. Through these moments, Conan still remained wholly optimistic and humble, defining everything he received as good fortune. You may not get what you want, but through simple kindness, the rewards will arrive in spades.

And as of right now, we can watch him goof and joke on his own show on TBS, Conan,
Just like old times.

Jerramy Fine

My Dad recommended I read her book about three years ago. I filed it into my Amazon wish list and later on dug it out when I got to my university and ordered it. Since that moment, it's gotten ratty and dog-eared, but I won't travel anywhere without "Someday My Prince Will Come: True Adventures of a Wannabe Princess."

Jerramy is a woman with a plan: leave Colorado for London in order to marry Prince Peter Philips. This dream begins early on and leads her to attend undergrad at the University of Rochester where she studies aboard as an intern at the House of Commons. Once school is over, Jerramy decides to brave her student loan debt to further push toward living in England and getting one step closer to Peter by attending the London School of Economics. This plan is not as easy as it seems, with many moments of beautiful but flighty boys, less than ideal flatmates and living situations, and the worry over getting a work permit approved both simultaneously drawing her closer and further from her dreams than ever before.

As a writer, Jerramy's voice is easy to relate to and completely charming to follow. I admire her spirit, her belief that something good was always coming and to simply never give up and work hard to achieve that dream. She reminds me of a modern-day Cinderella. Fine has her moments of doubt and documented in the book, these moments are the ones where I feel like I'm standing in her (glass) slippers. It's only natural to doubt the impulses, the feelings we have, and whether or not we're doing the right thing after all. Her heart longed for London and even though the journey isn't fully over, it's one I understand utterly.

If she writes a follow-up book, you know where I'll be...

Jessica Darling

"I know it sounds depressing, but it’s actually pretty damn funny, too. Like life." Jessica has long been my biggest heroine since 2006 when I stumbled upon the second book in the series dedicated to her, Second Helpings. Even reading the sequel with not much of a background on the first book, I instantly jumped into her world of being stuck in dull suburbia with best friend Hope having moved and only the Clueless Crew (her nickname for her airheaded 'quote unquote friends') being her remaining alternative to a social life. Jessica is strong and outspoken. She runs for cross country even though she hates it and writes a well-received column for her newspaper that she puts more of her heart into than she admits.

Throughout the course of the five books, Jessica grows up. In essence, I was along for the ride on that one. She graduates from high school, goes on to college, graduates, takes on the tough after-period of life after college, and eventually does become a success in her own right. Her relationships with her family, friends, and long-term boyfriend Marcus Flutie are put through the ringer time and time again. She never loses her snarky pop-culture infused voice, but gradually throughout the books her voice matures in only the way that time, experience, and perspective can give you. Her battles shift from month to month, as recorded in her journal style entries and grow deeper one month only to jump to less-difficult and more silly in only the way life can give you the next.

I know I say it often, but it simply cannot be said enough. In the world of teenage literature today and even five years ago when Jessica was enrolling in Columbia, she's the smartest, most introspective and keen, witty young protagonist of the Youtube generation depicted on the printed page. Hip enough to be a hipster but even hipper to mock the system and do things her own way.

Throughout my life, I've been given the luck of having lots of great older girlfriends who served as role models for shaping me into the girl I would later become. Kate in high school who was a year older than me, would dramatically impact my sense of style in later years to come. Roxy and Betty, my two college-age managers at Panera Bread (also in high school) would inspire me to push forward with attending the university I later did, even though back then I didn't need much pushing because I already knew it was kind of destiny. And Moriah, my old boss with my internship with Fender who in so many ways I can hardly count them all was like looking at my future self in 5 years. Alongside all of these real women, I have to include the fictional Jessica. She's just as real as any person could be in my eyes.

My kinda heroine.

This has been the post of the century.

Love to you all,


Em [the writer] said...

Conan O'Brien is definitely on my inspiration list too! The others are great choices too though!

Ted said...

Imagination is always good energy

Andrew Green said...

Those are some good choices....
I would pick George Carlin, Carl Sagan, and Theodore Roosevelt.

Natalie said...

Oh my goodness. Can I just say how much I freaking love the Jessica Darling series too?! Just the tone of the books is so inexplicably perfect... it's hard to even describe. But I seriously adore those books so much. :)


I have heard so many great things about Jerramy Fine, her book is going on my "must read list". Speaking of writing? You have a lovely writing style, is this something that you are pursuing?

And thank you for visiting my blog and leaving such a lovely comment. Great to meet yours too. xx veronika

Cara-Mia said...

I love Conan! I remember the state quarters haha. I wish he'd bring back the Walker, Texas Ranger crank. I'm going to see him this month & am beyond excited!

belle Armed said...

im back, or at least trying to be.
and Im very glad you're still here. Ive missed you.

Miri said...

I'm selling my mentaƶ virginity on my blog.

Pick me up!


Phoenix said...

Love this. I have to say that all three of your heroes (okay, your one hero and two heroines) weren't really on my radar that much (although I do find Conan O'Brien very funny, I don't watch his show as often as I should) but I appreciated that you took the time to talk about them and explain what qualities you found so awesome in them (and in your real-life friends.) This was a very inspiring post - I might borrow the idea!

Jennifer Fabulous said...

I love Jerramy Fine! Someday My Prince Will Come is one of my FAVORITE books. It is so inspiring. :) Great list! xoxo

Amber said...

I love Conan so much. I actually decided to major in history because he majored in history at Harvard. I would have gone to Harvard as well if I were, you know, smart enough to get in. Definitely a hero of mine.

The Sequin Cat said...

Hooray for Jessica Darling!