Another really great suggestion from Maggie Mason for today:
...the people around you are doing worthy things--raising healthy kids, perfecting a signature mixed drink, making a fresh start. Write little profiles of your friends, counting up the reasons you respect them or the times they've surprised or impressed you.
You can interview them, or just write up a paragraph or two. Tell us who your friends are, and why you picked them to be a part of your life.
God, where to begin? I know some fairly outstanding people...they are identified here only by nickname or initial, just to be sure, but they should all be very proud of who they are.
My friend Scand is a roller derby star. This impresses me in all kinds of ways. To begin with, roller derby is just so freaking cool, and I'm impressed that she is physically able to do it and do it well. Beyond that, though, I think roller derby has in some ways been in facet through which she's come out of her shell, met new people, and taken on a new and fun persona, and I admire that. She's gone through a lot of changes in recent years and her life has taken some turns that weren't expected, and she's not only dealing with all of that with amazing good grace, she's embracing it and making having fun a priority for herself. I kind of want to be her when I grow up.
In the past few years, a whole passel of my friends have become parents, and they are all damn good at it. I admire all of their parenting for different reasons. My friends S. and T. really thought hard before becoming parents, went through a lot to do so, and make parenting a priority in every part of their lives. They take being parents seriously, and recognize that it is important work. My friends N. and Z.Z. are very different kinds of parents, but are no less admirable. They have perfected balance, living their lives and concentrating on their careers while also being wonderful examples of both parents and partners. The Princess and C-Man are newer to parenting, but it is already clear that they, too, will be role model parents. They display outstanding patience and an unrelenting dedication to allowing their child, even at his very young age, to be his own person. All of these people have fantastic kids, with whom I am privileged to spend time.
I admire my friend The Libertarian Librarian for her insistence on living her life on her own terms, whether that means never having a monogamous relationship, or refusing to sleep when it is dark and be awake when it is not, or having off-kilter ideas about what is and what is not breakfast food. This kind of faith in ones own ideals is hard to come by, and I'd like to have more of it myself.
There are many ways in which my friend Me inspires me, and her long-distance running is only one of them. It isn't so much her determination or her stamina that impresses me as it is her patience, her willingness to build slowly towards her goals. She's shown this in so many areas of her life, but working her way up to running for tens of miles at a time is the one that makes the most apt metaphor.
Some of my friends are couples, and some of those couples have relationships from which I draw encouragement and by which I am inspired. B. and E. have been through a lot together, including marriage, unemployment, the death of a parent, financial problems, and the birth and raising up of their little girl. They have always shown respect for one another and it has always been clear how much they care about each other. That is inspirational, and has only become more so as their daughter has grown into her own person and their twosome has become a threesome. I'm also inspired by T. and E., who are brave enough to know that family is what you make it, and yes, you can choose your own family and build it in the way you choose.
I have admiration bordering on unhealthy envy for my friends Nij and Gany, who are both going after the degree I wanted to go pursue when I left undergrad, but didn't have the courage or the willingness to make sacrifices. Watching them do it makes me believe I can, but only if I can display the dedication they've shown.
My friend H. is the smartest person I know, and he manages to wear the mantle of that intelligence without being a pompous ass. He doesn't talk to me like I'm stupid, even when I'm being stupid. He doesn't underestimate others' capabilities, nor does he downplay his own. There is, I think, extreme confidence in that.
Finally, there's Mark. Mark who has done so, so many things for me, about whom I admire more than I could ever put here. Perhaps more than anything, though, I am forever grateful to him for teaching me to love dogs, and for providing such a fantastic example for how to properly integrate them into your life. Even if our relationship ends terribly (which I have no reason to think it would), I will always have that, and it's the best gift I've ever been given.
I am lucky indeed to know these fine people.