Lion Heart

Around this time last year, I started to become more out-going, more extroverted. I’ve chalked it up to working with kids and having to yell and be enthusiastic all the time, but when I re-examine 2015, I just happened to have become exhausted with being silent. I grew weary of waiting for my turn to speak. I knew that I had so much to share with others, and I wanted to be around others more. I grew to love the constant stimulation of different voices, opinions, ideas, and stories. And I came to expect and crave that interaction.

I took the Myers-Briggs personality test several months ago, and got INFP, same as usual. But deep down, I wasn’t 100% okay with that. I felt a strong need to continue asserting myself, to connect with others more.

When I re-took the test a couple of months after that, I got ENFP. Huh. I thought I was quiet, introverted, private. Wasn’t I shy growing up? Didn’t I redirect the spotlight whenever it hovered close to me? I was confused and refused to accept that result (even though I am fully aware and appreciative of how a test cannot define me, that I am more than four letters).

But then, I realized that I shouldn’t let my past define me. Just because I was a certain way before doesn’t mean that who I am was set in stone in that period of time. The people around me accepted this fact so easily that it made me realize that I was clinging onto something that may have been true then but is not now.

Around the same time, I also became more of a Gryffindor. Growing up, I knew that I wouldn’t completely identify with that House, even though I desperately wanted to be bold and brave. I suppose the extraversion and the Gryffindor-like tendency to stand up for what I believe in came into play last year. What’s cool is that my friends have been telling me that it makes sense for me to have Gryffindor as a secondary House, because I do stand up for what I believe in, and I have a strong moral compass that I like to think always points north.

Thinking about these two developments has made me wonder if I’m finally developing that idealistic lion heart that I’ve seen in my favourite characters, especially women. Hermione, Anne, Leslie… they’re so fearless in what they want and what they believe in. They keep pushing forward despite all the obstacles and failures, and I admire that so much. I hope I’m reaching that point. I hope that people compare me to these characters, with the newest addition from Hamilton: An American Musical.

Elizabeth Schuyler-Hamilton, or Eliza as she’s called in the musical, is such a lion heart. I strive to be more like her. She’s fierce in her convictions, she doesn’t take bullshit, and she always asserts herself in every situation that life puts her in. And yet, she remains soft. In the way she sings and speaks, in the way she interacts with her husband, sisters, and everyone else around her. And her line, “look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now” is aligned with my personal philosophy of gratitude and awe.

I love being able to surround myself with inspirational, strong, fierce women, both fictional and real. I love exploring these parts of my identity, especially since I admire these traits in others. Perhaps I could use some falling in love with these parts of myself.

My Leading Ladies

I’ve been highly influenced by important women in my life. Today, on International Women’s Day, I want to highlight the fictional ones. These ladies have helped me come to love and accept myself, and to strive for success and improvement.

1. Matilda Wormwood

From Roald Dahl’s beloved book, Matilda was one of my first childhood heroes, simply because she loved books. I had thought that my love for reading set me apart from my classmates in a bad way, but Matilda showed me how you can be yourself and take charge of your life to make it better.

2. Hermione Granger

I saw a lot of myself in Hermione from the Harry Potter series. When I was 9 years old, my grade four teacher read to us Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (still not sure why she didn’t choose the first book), and I was instantly hooked. Yes, the story was engaging and magical and all kinds of amazing, but what stood out to me was Hermione’s book smarts, her bushy hair, her large teeth, and her confidence in being the top of her class. I had the first three characteristics, and I struggled with the fourth. I secretly wanted to be more like Hermione, to save the boys, save world, and occasionally give people a literal/verbal/intellectual smackdown.

3. Anne Shirley

I discovered Anne before Hermione and after Matilda. You can sense a recurring theme here of heroines who love to read books and aren’t afraid of being smart. With Anne, though, she went through a lot of charming mishaps and her mouth got her into trouble – which I loved. She wasn’t perfect, but that wouldn’t stop her from exclaiming about her emotions or sharing the importance of creativity. And it certainly didn’t stop her from working hard to get to the top of her class (although her rivalry with Gilbert Blythe might have helped).

4. Mulan Fa

The one Disney princess/heroine (I know she’s not technically a princess but she deserves to be one) I really identified with. Belle from Beauty and the Beast might have loved books and shown great compassion, but Mulan showed so much bravery that I can’t help but want to be more like her. Well, maybe I won’t use a sword to cut off my hair, join the army, be able to climb a pole, or defeat an evil villain. But Mulan does motivate me to fight for my values and remember what is most important in life.

5. Katniss Everdeen

We’re definitely straying from bookworms here. There’s not much Katniss and I share with each other, but The Hunger Games heroine has motivated me to be more resourceful and brave. And yes, I did start to like braids and archery more, and wondered about taking wilderness survival classes. But the one thing that I admire most about Katniss is how her love for the people in her life fuels her sense of justice and her contribution to the fight for equality. That is definitely something that I want to remember as I make my way through this life.

6. Korra

It took me a while to warm up to her, probably from the not-so-smooth transitions between seasons. Ultimately, though, I came to love how a woman of colour with noticeable muscles could be so compassionate and just, flawed and fiery, and accomplish so much for the good of the world. Korra just feels so real, and she represented a group of people we don’t really get to see on television. A lot of the show’s audience appreciated and identified with that. I know I did, and I especially found solace in her quest to find balance within herself.

7. Leslie Knope

As you can tell from my previous post, I definitely want to be more like Leslie Knope. She’s incredibly passionate and hard-working, and this extends beyond her career into her personal life (or vice versa, depending on what you think defines her more). The lessons I learned from her really confirmed what I had gathered from the previous ladies: it’s okay to be smart. It’s okay to be passionate. It’s okay to care. It’s more than okay to be yourself; in fact, it’s necessary. I learned that you really need to follow your dreams and work your butt off to make them happen. And if you fail, you get up and keep going. Because who knows what else life has in store for you.

There are the big 7 for me. Which female characters have inspired or influenced you?

Be the Leslie Knope you want to see in the world.

be the leslie knope

When I was working at my last job in legal aid, I had wanted to print out the above picture and place it at my desk. I had the intention of working really hard to be the best representative I could be, and work so hard that I would change things. Just like Leslie.

Well, that didn’t happen. For some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to decorate my cubicle with personal things. There were no reminders to be awesome or faces of characters who inspire me or photographs of loved ones. I didn’t even bring my custom-made mug with pictures of my dog. Maybe it’s because I knew deep down inside that this wasn’t the job for me and I would be leaving soon. Maybe it’s because I actually didn’t want to try that hard to make a positive difference. I think it was both, and they were connected.

Leslie Knope tries so damn hard and puts so much effort into her work (she gets like 3 and a half hours of sleep every night!) because she cares a lot about what she does. She loves her hometown of Pawnee, and will do whatever it takes to make it a better place. And she is also completely herself. Her decisions come from a place of integrity and sense of justice, and she’s willing to sacrifice herself in order to do good for the community (like with the recall vote in season 6).

I would love to find my inner Knope. I’m no Gryffindor or bureaucrat, and I’m certainly not as out-going or energetic as Leslie. But I do make a big effort in my work, no matter what it is, and I care about what I do. I want to try to be as passionate and hardworking as her, and hope that I too will make a big positive impact for others. I just have to find my Parks department-equivalent. And maybe a Ben Wyatt-equivalent, but that’s a post for another day.

And as for decorating my workspace? Well, I’ve started to do that at home. Among my to do lists, I have a statement with my intention, “Sharing stories to inspire empathy and kindness,” and I’m planning on adding inspirational quotes, including the Leslie Knope picture. And yes, the mug with my dog is there, too.

Icy Conditions

I actually love winter. (Actually, I love all four seasons.) I always find the snow beautiful to look at and fun to play in. I love layering up and wearing dress coats and berets and pretending I’m an important and successful person – although I only changed my pants to go outside. I don’t find the frigid temperatures alarming and don’t feel the need to complain unless it leads to friendly small talk.

But if there’s one thing that I purposefully avoid during the winter, it’s the ice. I hate having to walk on it because I hate slipping and falling. I was one of those kids you saw on the rink who was holding onto the teacher, a friend, a pylon, a chair, or the wall. Rarely did I step away from my precious lifeline and actually try to skate by myself. I had chalked it up to the skates squeezing my wide feet to death, my non-Canadian-born parents being unable to pass on the skating gene, and eventually just my overall incompetence.

It’s funny – I always watch figure skating and hockey during the Olympics. The way they so gracefully yet dangerously whiz across the ice as they perform a triple toe or knock out some hoser’s tooth. It’s so fun to watch. And it would be so much more fun to actually do.

One of my all-time favourite moments on Parks and Recreation happens in season 4, when Leslie Knope is just starting to campaign for city council. She relies on her Parks team for an event and, naturally, it’s a disaster. The basketball court is converted to an ice rink, and they can’t afford enough red carpet to take Leslie to the podium. I don’t know why, but she makes the trip on the ice anyway – wearing heels! (I’m doing a terrible job at explaining this, so here‘s a link for you to watch. It’s amazing.)

Whoops, I lost my train of thought. I had gone from watching that Parks and Rec clip to a clip of Chris Traeger performing air banjo and then to Tom Haverford singing to Ann Perkins and then I realized I should get back to this post. (And that’s how you do a transition when you’re stuck!)

I’ve realized, though, that I wasn’t as afraid of falling down than the actual sensation of losing my balance of being on two feet. I know that I can get up again after I fall. Of course. But I don’t like the act of falling. When I had realized this, I also realized that this is how I approach life.

There’s (metaphorical) ice everywhere. You can’t help it. It’s down the path you want to go, it surrounds you on all sides so there’s no safe way to get anywhere, and there’s really nothing you can do about it other than cross it. I mean, why would you waste your time and energy trying to chip the ice away when you know it’s going to show up again? So you toughen up, gather your courage, and keep going. You’ll probably fall, and that’s normal. You’ll actually want to fall so you can realize that it’s not so bad as long as you can get up again. Eventually, you’ll go from walking in heels to gliding in skates. Ice can be fun. It can be exhilarating. You just have to give it a try.