When Those We Consider Legendary Are Gone

So many people affect all of us in ways that are legendary.

What does it mean to idolize someone? It might mean that you look up to them and want to be like them, or that you have rose colored glasses on where they are concerned. As I type this, I recently learned of Kobe Bryant and his daughter along with seven other passengers who perished in a helicopter tragedy on Sunday, January 26, 2020. Kobe was someone who left a mark on the basketball world that won’t be erased any time soon. Even though LeBron James recently surpassed his record on scoring, Kobe remains an idol to many. He isn’t alone. There are many other celebrities and non celebrities who imprint our lives in ways that others fail.

If you are someone who loves to write, who inspired you? I have favorite authors. I love reading works from James Patterson, Heather Graham, Steven King, Agatha Christie, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Kathy Reichs. Some of these authors are still living and writing but several like Agatha Christie, Mark Twain, and Charles Dickens are not. In many ways, I wonder what it must have been like for those authors who have already come and gone. What were they like? Were they jerks? Were they just living out fantasies in their works? Or were they affected by those who had come and gone before them and had the imprints of those souls integrated into their works? I think there’s a little bit of all of this that occurs. You see, anytime someone who is in a public forum is exposed, there is an element of illusion that is presented. Many times, those elements leave impressions that we never expected.

Bill Moore is a former English teacher of mine from high school. He made me understand English literature better than I had previously. He made it come to life for me and for that I will always be grateful. He saw potential in me even though I never saw it in myself. It took a lot of years of wandering before I ever got the nerve to change focus and start writing. While I may never achieve fame or glory, just knowing that I can experience life and relay the events on paper really helps bring closure to some of the heartbreak that I’ve endured during my lifetime. Thankfully, he’s still alive and able to inspire others. But there are other teachers such as Janet Rhoades who will never get the glory but damn sure imprinted on my life and many others as well. I will never forget her lessons on the Shi-ites. And believe me when I tell you that she said to “put women in power because they would fight over a hair dryer and resolve other issues because women were able to be the peacemakers in families.” Oh what I wouldn’t give for another conversation with her. She made learning fun.

So what are some of the lessons that you learned from people who have inspired you throughout your lifetime? Believe it or not, Karen Carpenter from the Carpenters helped me to stop being anorexic. She lost her battle because she believed that the public wanted her to be thin. Her belief was so strong that she couldn’t see her own beauty and ended up succombing to a disease that brought national attention to something that wasn’t talked about. Body imagery has been a major issue of discussion for most of my life. If you didn’t look like a supermodel, then something was wrong with you. So much focus was being put on young girls to be thin and beautiful that being themselves was something that was shunned.

Everything we experience in our lives has the potential to become legendary.

Another person I used to idolize was Helen Keller. For a woman who as deaf and blind, she saw and heard more than most of us can even begin to comprehend. Even though she was unable to see, her senses became attuned to things that most of us would take for granted. Her sense of smell was sharp. She could feel the vibrations and that allowed her to hear in her own way. She may never have been able to hear the sound, but she could hear through the vibtrations and through the mouths of others and never once allowed her disability to prevent her from graduating from college and exploring the world. She taught all of us that it isn’t what you lose but what you gain from bad situations in our lives. It’s about not letting anyone or anything stand in the way of continuing your quest to learn.

One of my favorite mentors died before I was born. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a man who wanted our nation to unite. He had a dream that says “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope.” He truly was ahead of his time and even though he lost his life, his legacy still impacts generations with his message.

I currently have the privilege of working with an organization called “Empowered Girls of NC”. Every single one of these girls are becoming my mentors. The men and women who help support the organization are not celebrities but they help bring to light what these girls can achieve. It’s not about color. It’s about pride in themselves, and the confidence to show that these young women don’t have to settle for anything. One of the things that I learned is that through women like Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou and Harriet Tubman, women of color have had a much more difficult journey than those of us who have “white skin”. White privilege is a problem in society and I am the first to say that it still posessess issues today but not everyone has the same journey. Your story and my story may or may not be similar. But what we learn from each other has the potential to change the way future stories are told.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the stories of Jesus. His life and death continue to touch many people in this world and none of us were around during his lifetime. The stories in the Bible help to guide believers by giving them hope and peace. While I believe in the Holy Spirit, I’m the first to admit that my Bible readings are not what they should be. I guess if you get down to the nitty gritty, so much of what we are impacted by in this world, is because of circumstance. My circumstances have been blessed and cursed in different scenarios but I am aware of my own shortcomings and continue to evolve by addressing those shortcomings. I think that’s why I have a fascination of sorts with certain legendary figures.

My dad was a major history buff. He soaked it up like a sponge. I never really acquired the same taste for it until I was in my thirties but now I’m playing catch up. I think that’s why learning from those who influence us is so important. No one on this earth does everything just alike. It might be similar but there will always be variances. Why do people not have an interest in an area and then meet someone who gets them interested and they pursue that interest down the road? It’s really pretty simple. We aspire to be like those who make a difference in our lives. And if someone was a negative influence in our lives, we do everything we can to not emulate their behavior.

My heart truly aches for those that we lost that have inspired each and every one of us. But I can ascertain that they would tell us the same thing. Go for what you can’t even dream. Set a goal. Then set another goal every time you achieve the first goal, keep setting your goals and check them off as you conquer them. Don’t convince yourself that you aren’t worthy of success. Remember that there has to be failure in life before we succeed. Use failure to propel you forward and not prevent you from succeeding. It’s when we quit trying that we never know what we are able to achieve. After all, those that are legendary and have left the earth may not have their bodies here, but their presence dwells within all of us to help us achieve unknown destinations.

Never let anyone take away your dreams. Look to those who came before us and learn.

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