Lately, I have been thinking about inspiring people in my life. With that, I do not mean influential persona such as Gandhi or Martin Luther King, but people that I have personally met and that have enriched my life – no matter if just once or permanently.
The first inspiring person that comes to mind would without a doubt be my mother. I know that a lot of people say this, but I actually mean it too. I have been deeply connected to my mother since my father left our family when I was still in primary school. (No worries, this is not going to be a depressing piece of writing.)
My mother is one of the strongest people I have ever known: being a single mother while simultaneously handling her career and two incidents of cancer. None of these incidents made her bitter in any way – eventhough it would not be wrong to admit that her level of sarcasm has certainly risen in the last couple of years. Most importantly, she has always supported my decisions: no matter if that concerned leaving to New Zealand for a year by myself after graduation or deciding to study at a university 6 hours away from my hometown. Eventhough she does not like to admit it, I know that deep inside it must have been somehow hard for her to let me go out into the world – especially since I also happen to have no siblings. For all this and more, she is and will always be my rock in life.
The next person on the list is a very unique specimen of human being in a lot of aspects: My grandad. First of all, he is one of the few people I know who truly loved his job. He used to work in France as a organ maker and restorer for the French Catholic church for more than 35 years. (Funnily enough, without actually being Catholic.) He travelled the world and at one point almost moved to Spain, which thankfully never happened because otherwise neither my mother nor I would be where we are now.
After he retired in 1990, he mentally fell into a hole – but the way karma works, I was born the year after and according to my mother managed to give him a bit of purpose again: when my mother was at work, he and my grandma took me out for walks and when I was older he regularly took me to the train station and we waved at every train inspector that came past us. Up to this day, we are regularly on the phone and luckily, I even happen to get „donations“ for the holidays and birthdays. To be fair, it has never been about the amount for me, but rather about the gesture. Since I can think, every present has always been accompanied by a very personal hand-written card – black fountain pen ink and nothing else. I cannot enlist all the – in my eyes very positive – traits I adopted from my grandad. (My mother even says the resemblance is spooky sometimes.)
Furthermore, I will forever be grateful that he introduced me to the beauty of chess and the German classic poets at a young age: his favourites are well-known writers such as Goethe or Schiller, but Tucholsky and Rilke can also be found in his repertoire. He can recite many of these by heart – a trait I have always admired and tried to adopt in my life. I am guilty of adding some of the classic English poets such as John Keats, W. B. Yeats or William Blake to the list – unfortunately my grandad has no understanding of English and thus cannot share these with me – in our eyes, poetry has to be read in its original form, otherwise it loses a significant amount of meaning. I could continue this paragraph about my grandad for a very long time, this is why I decide to stop here for now.
The last two people I want to mention have all been mentors to me: the first one is my German teacher in High-School, the other one my favourite professor at university. It is amazing what difference a great teacher can make in our lives – and simultaneously alarming what a detrimental effect a terrible one can have.
My German teacher in high-school was a lady in her early 60s who used to come to school in her stunning red vintage oldtimer each summer – an image I will always have in mind when thinking of her. She was my favourite teacher in high-school, mostly because she never simply stuck to the textbooks, but told us little anecdotes about her life at the same time. For example, one day we were discussing Schiller’s works and she told us the anecdote of her studying him at university 30 years ago and how she learned that Schiller used to keep a couple of apples in his desk – even after they were rotten – to keep concentrated. Till this day, I still remember this anecdote, on the other hand I have to sadly admit that there is not much left of my algebra skills.
Fast forwarding 5 years, the professor at university that made me fall even more in love with the language of English happened to be an esteemed English gentleman in his early 60s called Mr. Turner. Whenever he entered the room, no matter if there were 30 or 200 students in it, the room immediately went quiet and everybody paid attention in a mesmerized manner. It is hard to explain what makes a professor unique and proficient – but for me and many more of his students he is #1 on the list. Mr. Turner retired in my last year of studies, which makes me very happy to have had the chance to meet him and have many interesting seminars – one even concerning J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I wish that there were more teachers like him – teachers that are driven, teachers that love the subject they are trying to bring across and most importantly, teachers that can actually actively bring that information across in a manner that actually sticks in the mind of the student for a long period of time.
Who knows, I might end up being a professor one day and students will complain about my methods instead? 😉