I’m supposed to consider who in history I would choose to teach me, if I could have anyone, ever. Well I would choose a few.
That’s right. A few. I’d be the eternal student, going from teacher to teacher throughout history soaking up their words, their personalities and their surroundings–how they live.
Who would I choose? Shakespeare. Jane Austen. Walt Disney. And Audrey Hepburn.
That’s a strange sort, you might say. Or that they’re not very academic. At first I had considered people like Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Theodore Roosevelt, and even Marie Curie. I’ve never been into history; it’s bored me and seemed repetitive, endless and pointless. But I loved science, I loved academics and I admired all those people. When it came down to really answering this question though, we already have learned from them in those academics, and they hardly lived outside of the published lives. And then I recalled the artists, the writers and visionaries.
Shakespeare. He is thought to have been gay in a time when that was wholly unacceptable and had to hide his true nature his entire life. He held that burden. He persevered through. He persevered through taunts of failure where his writing and plays were concerned–that they were no good, they would never succeed. (some may still agree, to each his own). Yet he went on. He wrote, he imagined, he concocted, he penned, and he became a playwright. He became famous and not just in one genre but successfully stretched himself across a few: comedy, drama, even romance. As his student, I would learn his perseverance. As a writer, his way with words and how he channels a story, where he calls a story from.
Jane Austen. Oh, Jane. I have always loved Jane, admired her and her work. A female writer in a man’s world, making her own money and defying all societal conventions. She took political matters into her work (no they were not just romances and fluff). They were replies to articles like the Tatler and The Spectator and other independant articles published at that time on woman’s behavior, marriage, and money. She was defiant, unafraid to speak out. She was courageous in her words and in her actions, taking on the care of her family with the money from her publishings and refusing to marry in a world where that was a scandal. I would love to learn more about her world, the simpler way of life. I’ve lived in this fast-paced society my entire life. How much would it change me to slow down, appreciate the smaller things, like a simple walk in the park or the neighbors, a handwritten letter, or a nice three-course meal? I could spend a lifetime learning from her: loyalty (like that to her sister Cassandra), and love (for she did love deeply), to speak your mind and be courageous, and take every joy life has to offer.
Walt Disney. He was whimsical and dedicated. As the previous two “teachers”, he too had been told that he would fail. That Disneyland, his inventions and contraptions like the monorail were impossible, in this lifetime or another. But Disney ignored them. Walt Disney was a dreamer. He believed in imagination and nurturing that inner child. They don’t have to die or be locked away, but that child can teach us, can lead us down new and interesting paths if we let it. I had always found Walt Disney fascinating, his story, life, his achievements, but after watching “Saving Mr. Banks” this past winter I have such an increased admiration and fondness for the man. Yes he had become somewhat cocky later in life, but it was still in pursuit of dreams, of bringing the impossible to life and creating new and different things. I would love to learn to nurture my inner child and imagination as much as he did. to be able to keep moving forward as he so often sought to do himself with every failure.
Audrey Hepburn. An idol. An actress. A mother. a Humanitarian. A woman. Two of my favorite quotes come from this woman.
“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m Possible.”
“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”
They both demonstrate strength. They are motivation. She had to work for her roles, for acceptance. She didn’t have an easy life, probably easier than my other “teachers”, but still. She had to prove herself. To directors. To herself. To the world. She was a role model for many girls, not just in her beauty but in her actions, with her words. She knew from the start how she was perceived and used that. She had a classic style that was never flashy or egregious in baring skin. She was fun, and smiled. She lived her life with a perpetual smile. I would want to learn her optimism. Her vivacity, vitality.
Basically, in my mind, I imagine Shakespeare and Walt Disney combined into one ingenious man and Jane Austen and Audrey Hepburn melded into a single pervasive woman, who would then have a single offspring, me. By being the student of these four people simultaneously I hope for the same effects. to take on those qualities and perhaps more, as if being raised by them and passed on their morals and advice, their guidance in life–for being a child is quite like being an eternal student, your learning is never done.
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