We often think of role models as people on a grand pedestal — the Abe Lincolns, Emma Goldmans, Nelson Mandelas of the world.
But this week I’d like to nominate two people close to me, my dear hubby Sam Schuchat and my friend Carolyn Said. Both inspire me, but not in the ways that first seem to jump out at you.
Sam is right now about 80 percent of the way through a seven-day 545-mile AIDS/LifeCycle charity bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, on his recumbent bike.
Carolyn just bought a house after completing chemo and radiation treatments for breast cancer.
Why does Sam inspire me? It’s not the sheer physical feat of pedaling all those miles, although that is impressive. It’s that he took up biking as a serious hobby in middle age, ten or fifteen years ago. He also learned to swim for the first time in his late 40s. Recently, he started taking saxophone lessons for the first time in his life.
I love that he keeps trying new things at a point when many people trot along in the same comfortable lanes they’ve traveled for years.
Meanwhile, Carolyn went through a grueling year of cancer treatments right on the heels of her father’s death from cancer. (And she’s written a great, funny blog about it, which you can read here.) But that’s not the part that inspires me — it’s that she was still in the last stretch of radiation when she and her husband found the house of their dreams and bought it!
This wasn’t something they had been planning, or fretting over, or hunting, for years. In fact, I had never heard her utter a peep about “we need a new house” in all our walks together. They happened upon this house, fell in love, and took the plunge. I visited them last night, and it’s like something from Sunset magazine — open, spacious, sunny, with a spreading panorama of the Bay from a wall of living room windows.
What inspires me is not that she made it through all those treatments — which is, like Sam’s bike mileage, no small thing — but that she immediately threw herself into something so completely new and all-absorbing and unexpected.
I didn’t realize it until I started writing this post, but there’s a common thread to both Sam’s and Carolyn’s stories, and why they inspire me.
It’s their willingness to throw themselves into life, try completely new things, experiment, learn.
Not just during those phases of life like school and college when we are “supposed” to be learning — but in middle age. At any age.