Thursday, October 25, 2012

Inspiring speakers

Remember those days as a kid when the school organized a convocation and brought in an inspirational speaker? Everyone loved getting to skip class and do something fun, but I was one kid [cough cough nerd cough cough] who always enjoyed hearing inspirational speakers. 

I still remember one who encouraged us to answer the question, "How are you?" with something like "I'm great!" instead of your run-of-the-mill, expected, "Fine." It stuck with me, and to this day, I rarely answer "fine" unless it really is a ho-hum, just "fine" kind of day.

Over the last 10 days, I've had the opportunity to hear two inspirational speakers with two very different life stories, and I picked up some nuggets of wisdom from both of them. 

The first: Michael J. Fox

Last week, I attended a conference for work, and Michael J. Fox was the keynote speaker on the opening day. All you have to know is that he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at age 29, see what he's done in his life in the 22 years since then, and you can't help but be amazed. 

But what really moved me was his attitude toward life. A diagnosis like that would hit anyone hard, but he said that over the years, he's come to recognize this: "I've learned that my happiness grows in direct proportion with my acceptance, and in opposition with my expectations." 

That line has really stuck with me, and it's one I want to remember. Many people never get to that moment of clarity, so I hope I can remind myself of it and start living with that in mind now.

The second: Delia Ephron

On Wednesday evening, I went to the Jewish Community Center in Indianapolis and for a whopping $5.00 admission got to hear Delia Ephron speak. (I think I was one of about three people in the room under the age of 50.)

She spoke about her life and career, talking in general about being a female writer, a woman with friends and family, and an individual. She grew up in a family of writers: both her parents were screenwriters. Her mom had a successful career, which was unusual for the time, and she expected all four of her daughters to be nonconformists—and grow up to be writers themselves.

Her mom's unconventional view of the world made an early impression on her. She said her mom liked to say, "Being related to someone is no reason to like them," which can be a hard idea to accept—but she said it has helped her to write real, believable characters who have feelings that are a little hard to acknowledge. 

The two most important things I took away from her presentation were: 1) she's living proof that it's never too late to change the direction of your life, and 2) having a support system of girlfriends and family will help give you the courage to make those changes. (It's a very Oprah-show idea.) I mentioned that she and her three sisters are all writers—but what I loved hearing was that one sister didn't become a writer until she was 39, and another just started writing at 49.

She came across as an open, earnest woman who would be a great girlfriend. Her new book is The Lion Is In, and I'll definitely be picking it up.

Have you heard any speakers who inspired you? Who said something that has stuck with you for years, no matter how small? 

No comments:

Post a Comment