This post was brought to you by a grande Blonde foolishly consumed at 7:30PM.
So throughout my entire education to this point I have been repeatedly been asked for the names of people who inspired me. Problem is that the question makes very little sense to me, so I stumble through some sort of answer, picking the most common people and mimicking my peer’s explanations. The question got a little more complicated when my manager informed me that ahead of Sunday’s staff meeting I need to bring in a 3×5 photo of a pet that inspires me. And I thought, “I love my cat, but good Lord, I have enough trouble doing this with people. How do I answer how she inspires me?!”
And this is the issue.
It’s not that I am narcissistic or feel no debt to the aid people have provided me over the years whether emotional, occupational, or instrumental support (you know like the time my grandpa came and got me and then called a tow truck to pull me out of the ditch, or my parents providing a roof over my head). It’s just to me “inspired” always comes with a “to…” as in “my mom inspired me to go to university.” (except I think I mostly did that because a) I realized what I wanted to do required multiple university degrees, and b) because I was expected to because I was smart enough to succeed).
People encouraged me yes, supported me yes, and I am in awe of what some people in my life can do and have done (really they are super heroes without capes) but I generally attribute events in my life to social norms – like smart people go to university; or to my own decisions and passions (without really contemplating much where those passions arose). For example, I fell in love with psychology when I was in grade 11, my school had such a limited social sciences and humanities department that while there was a grade 12 sociology class (the one that made students either wear a fake bump for 24h or carry around a fake baby for 24h and get signatures indicating that they changed diapers, fed etc), the only psychology course was combined with anthropology and sociology as an introductory course. This was also about the time that Criminal Minds came out (and no I wasn’t expecting my career to be exactly like the show, I just liked the idea of understanding people’s minds, but I was more on the help normal people thing than the criminal profiling thing). So maybe you could say Mr Crawford, the teacher of this course, inspired me to go into psychology, and he was one of my favourite teachers, but, inspired me? No. He was more of a placeholder. It probably could have been any other person, and it was more of an interest piquing than inspiration, and the content not the person did the piquing.
I love to cook, and I am awestruck by celebrity chefs, in particular Gordon Ramsay and Joe Bastianich, but my foray into cooking and baking has little to do with them really, they’re more people I am in awe of – they did nothing to trigger me to do anything.
The issue for me isn’t that I think people are all place holders, it’s that the term inspiring makes little sense to me.
While I think some people are pretty kickass, like my mom who raised 3 kids while working full time and still found time to bake with me and read to me every night.
Or my grandparents who have always done the best they can with whatever money they had, and they never said no to a friend in need, they are so full of love and care for others. And many of the professors I have met over the years have been fantastic – really funny and informative, tough but fair. Or my guidance counselor in high school who noticed I was hurting and pushed for me to get the help I needed.
So I guess you could say my mom inspired my love of books, and possibly my cooking love, but she still calls marinara sauce marinaro sauce, and I love her for it. And I guess you could say my grandparents inspired me to be an incredibly caring person, and my grandma probably played a bigger roll in my love of baking than my mom as we spent countless P.D. days baking together. And you could say that the professors inspired love of different areas of psychology, and my guidance counselor inspired me to want to reach out and help other people.
Really though, when I look at inspiration seems to require a massive level of awe, an incredible feat that makes you want to do something, like reading about the Boston bombing victims and admiring their strength and courage and that they are running the Boston again as paraplegics, but I don’t really want to follow in their footsteps on that one (no pun intended). But their actions are still inspiring.
So because I tack on “to” to the idea of inspiring, this concept seems odds to apply to people in my daily life. Especially since I am sort of a trailblazer within my family – we don’t even know any psychologists – ergo, who exactly inspired me to become a psychologist? No one, just my love of the field, my yen to understand the human mind, take it apart and see what makes us tick. My passions drive me to do things, I rarely feel inspired to do something, but I am frequently awestruck and admire a lot of people for what they have done and continue to do.
So yeah it’s a complicated question.
Or I make it complicated.
The way I see it, all these incredible people throughout my life have shown me how I should be as a human being.
My mom reading to me created an enjoyment out of it from the attention, but also sparked my imagination and showed me the joy of getting lost in another world. Her sacrifices and “mothering” showed me the importance of family. Combined with her parents, I learned that family is number one and no matter how much they drive you nuts, family is first. They are everything and you care about them; but you also care about everyone else, because everyone else are people too, and people matter. Having pets in both households taught me that animals matter too, and can be just as supportive, even if they don’t “say” anything. My teachers and professors have shown me the value of learning and where you can get with hard work, as well as the amazing things I could one day do, but they also showed me that to be successful you have to work for it, life (and A’s) doesn’t get handed to you on a silver platter. My guidance counselor showed me that it’s important to reach out and help people and recognize those in need to support.
So basically – I can come up with a massive list of people I am grateful to, and of people who had some impact on me, but their impact was through the small and cumulative actions and they shaped my person not my actions and future endeavors.
These people are all amazing in their own way, and I appreciate the awesomeness of those around me. So maybe in a sense they all inspire me, but it feels cheap to use the term so liberally, so I skip it all together.
“Who inspired you?” is a complicated, but “Who changed you?” “Who pushed you to be who you are/do what you do?” “Who do you think is awesome/brave/incredible?” and “Who are you grateful to?” Those are all easy questions.
But maybe I just don’t understand the meaning of inspiration in the way that most people do. I see it as they inspire me to be something, not do something.