This series of stories were written by high school students from Joe Pellerito’s Advanced Teen Leadership Class at East Kentwood High School. They wrote about the heroes in their lives. Stories were written especially for now.wktv.com. Look for their stories in the weeks to come!
About 15 years ago she found herself in a successful career, and within a beautiful family, but yet still something was missing. “I spent many years not feeling so positive… My idea of success was being the best student.” In the end she realized that everything she had accomplished was in an effort to prove to the world she was worth it and could accomplish her goals. Her name is Marie Edlund, my grandmother.
She is my hero not because she has saved the world but because she has impacted my world for the better and has certainly seemed to find the secret to a life of bliss. I admire her for her optimism and ability to cherish every moment, no matter the circumstance. But behind every life is a story and series of accommodated lessons.
“I realized that I was surrounded by happiness but I wasn’t connecting to it,” she says, describing herself over a decade ago. After this realization she decided to redefine her life. Her definition of success had changed from a superior level in everything she did to an ability to “respect and appreciate” herself.
“Success is being able to be present in the moment,” she says. She later describes that every moment is special and has a purpose whether you’re getting dressed or on the way to work. She stopped keeping her head and goals in the future with ego driven ideals and declared this moment, every moment, a success. “This is success, a connection of our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical bodies.”
“I believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilization,” a quote from Roger Ebert, a well respected film critic. When I asked my grandmother what it took to be a leader she had a similar answer, “A leader needs to be able to observe and feel what others are feeling.” Empathy.
When asked, she considers herself a leader. In her career she was because she was willing, and has the ability, to be organized, recognize the mission, work with the group, and accomplish the task(s) at hand. Considering her work in the district of Grand Rapids Public Schools, and other districts across the state as well, this is an important task. Being able to coordinate so many educators definitely requires a leader, a respected one at that. When people she has worked with speak of her they admire her ability to listen and include every voice in a decision.
Throughout her education and career she has met and worked with many leaders. One she looks back on with great admiration is a civics teacher she had in 9th grade, Patrick Reagan. As a leader of the class he seemed to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each student. He offered a variety of ways for each student to excel and prove their knowledge in the class. “I outdid myself [in class] because he was so inspiring.” She continued to work with him throughout high school and he became more than just a teacher. He became a friend that she felt encouraged and respected by.
When I think of my grandmother, or “Grammy”, I think of my future self and who I want to be. My main goal in life is to live joyfully. This includes my career, family, spirit, relationships, and all forms of health. This is my definition of success. I have been inspired by so many people. But my grandmother, I think she’s really got it figured out. Therefore she has been one of my greatest inspirations in the mastery of the perfect attitude for a successful life.