You might be surprised about my idea of a mentor, or who I look to when I think about who I want to be.
First things first, "What brought this on?" I recently watched Julie & Julia. I have to admit, over the years I have developed a strange love affair with Meryl Streep. I think my first real experience with her began in the late 80's when she starred in She-Devil along with Rosanne Barr. In 1989, here in California, we had an earthquake. Most remember the delayed World Series, the crazy destruction, but I remember knowing my parents would be separating. Now, that is a story for another day, but it does lay the groundwork for the road that leads to my passion for Meryl. She-Devil, a story about a homely Rosanne Barr, whose husband leaves her for the glamorous Meryl Streep. In a vengeful plot about how Barr re-creates herself while turning Streep's life upside-down, and finally puts dear hubby in his place. Now, please understand, I should have been routing for Barr's character. After all, my own Daddy Dearest was leaving our family for someone else. But I really could never help feeling sorry for Streep's character. Sure, she knew she was getting involved with a married man, she should have turned and run the other way! But she went along anyway, and took on the hubby and his kids, and along with the aid of Barr's character, Streep's downfall was inevitable.
Fast forward a few years later, here comes the movie One True Thing. Again a movie that hit (somewhat) close to home. A movie about an estranged mother and daughter. Now, this movie did not parallel my own experience exactly, but at that time (late 90's) I had gone through a similar separation from my mother and was working to get a relationship back. The strength Streep's character had, just incredible.
Not quite a decade later and Streep hits me with two movies that bring me back to where my blog thoughts started. The Devil Wears Prada... In this movie, a "normal" person will see Streep's character as the heartless "dragon-lady" her fellow characters describe her as. She is all business and comes off cold-hearted. And yet, I am drawn to her again and again. You see, that is my mentor, my idol. I woman I only knew for a short time, and yet she touched my life infinitely and made me want to be a better me. When you see a woman that is coming down on a dowdy intern about the color of a belt, I see a woman that knows more than you could ever imagine about her industry. When you see her harsh and bitter, I see her encouraging and stern. I can't watch that movie without thinking of my own idol and it is a frequent reminder that I was taught by a woman that could handle her own and never felt bad for herself because of it. There is no bitterness, no hate. It is only self-confidence, and in a woman, that can be a very frightening thing.
Then we come to Julie & Julia. A story of a coming-on-thirty-year-old and that of a woman re-inventing herself. Now, it kind of seems like that's the same thing, and in a way it is, but my dear Meryl, she just embraces her characters, and while I'm sure she does her best to be them, she must put just enough of herself in those characters to keep drawing me back to her. Either that, or she simply reminds me of my own mentor.
Now, the woman I have looked up to for over ten years is not related to me. She is not a celebrity, not a public figure. She was once my boss. Some of my family and my friends have commented to me in those years that I worked for her that she came off a bit harsh and that I was relied upon too much. The fact is, I made myself too involved. I made myself believe that her shop could not run without me, that I was so important she couldn't be without me. The truth is, we needed each other and we had a love and respect for each other. She taught me to be confident about who I am, about what I did. She would regale me with stories of Ireland during her holidays from school, about Catholic school on the East Coast. I learned about her mother, her uncle in Ireland. I learned the little nit-picky things about sewing that some people would not think to teach. She and I always believed we were brought together for a reason, and we took from each other exactly what we needed.
And then, she retired. She and her husband packed up and moved to Florida! I know, a little cliche, but she really did move to Florida. At first I would hear from her often. I would try to write as often as I could, but it was really never enough. Over the years, I have written less and less, and I hear from her less and less. I miss her.So, where do I go from here? Perhaps I will have to save that for another blog...