These 5 People Have the Best Ideas About Life

One Writer

Living authentic, living brave, living inspired
Image by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto from Pixabay

The global pandemic of 2020/2021 has shaken us all. There’s nothing quite like a global health threat, the changing of our everyday activities, and the extra time spent in isolation to kick-off an existential personal crisis. In short, when life flips you on your head, it’s often the best time for thinking. Living authentically is a concept once considered a “dream for other people” but now is something we consider more seriously for ourselves.

It is hard to get out of the “work every day, go home, pay bills, watch a few Netflix binges” routine and consider an out-of-the-box lifestyle. Enter Covid-19 stage left and suddenly the world is brimming with possibilities. What have we got to lose? When one by one our liberties are narrowed down to the 12 ft by 12 ft square of our living rooms and the reach of our online presence — we tend to start thinking about what life is really all about. What about those dreams of ours? What about working more remotely — long term? Can we really scale down some things in our lives and do what truly matters to us? I mean, why not?

Some brilliant and brave minds are far ahead of us. They didn’t need a global pandemic to force them off the couch or out of the office chair. They are out there getting at life with a determination that shames the stagnancy of the mundane, the normal, the average. They don’t simply “step out the front door like a ghost into the fog” as my favorite Counting Crows song ‘Round Here’ laments. They are a bit more “Bilbo” in their approach.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Without further adieu, here are 5 brave, inspiring souls who have great ideas about life well-spent

Foster Huntington, creator of #VanLife

Foster Huntington gave up a fashion career and life in New York to buy a van and hit the road, inspiring #VanLife and catalyzing a nomadic lifestyle into a bohemian trend. With social media as a backdrop, this trendy lifestyle is less the vagabond and derelict form of travel one might associate with free-spirited nomadic lifestyles and more of a super-chic, cool form of long-term camping.

Foster Huntington has taken his dream lifestyle and turned it into a living. What society once deemed reckless, Huntington’s made successful and attractive. By chasing his dreams of freedom and creativity, bucking the status quo of a 9 to 5, Huntington has inspired over 952K followers on his Instagram. Turns out, people love following adventure! Huntington scoffs at the ‘filtered” version of #VanLife, embracing the beauty of the landscape, the adventures of the land, and meeting fantastic people along the way. When it comes to living authentically, this guy’s doing his own thing — and this is inspiring.

Lizzie Velasquez turns “Ugliest Woman in the World” Title into a Calling

I hesitated on that heading — why define this woman by her face? Well, unfortunately, for Lizzie Velasquez, her face has defined her life. While YouTube and TikTok users have memed and used her face as the “ugliest woman in the world,” she’s fought back with a documentary A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story and lives an inspiring life as a strong woman, anti-bullying advocate, and motivational speaker.

Take that haters!

She’s taken her biggest life challenge, an extremely rare condition called Marfanoid–progeroid–lipodystrophy syndrome, and is changing how the world sees beauty with her infectious positivity and her message to others on kindness, acceptance, and self-love. She’s got 770K followers and supporters on her Instagram.

CNN recently covered her reaction to the “new ugly teacher” trend, which Velasquez addressed in her own TikTok response garnering more than 2 million views.

Find this woman. Follow this woman. (Here’s her Twitter.) She is such an inspiration to anyone and everyone who has ever been or felt different.

Ronnie Long chooses a life well-lived over all-consuming anger

Imagine serving 44 years in prison, falsely accused of rape. This is what happened to Ronnie Long of Concord, North Carolina. He walked out of prison in August 2020, a free man after his 1976 rape conviction by an all-white jury was finally vacated.

One might say that Mr. Long has every reason to be angry; the kind of anger that could eat you from the inside out and destroy any sense of inner peace.

But Ronnie Long held onto faith, hope, and a strong belief that “right” would eventually be done. Upon his release, Long stated “This is real right here. I’m trying to enjoy every minute of it. Every minute I’ve got left in my life.” He used his moments with the cameras to plead with the public:

“Don’t ever give up. No matter how rough it can be, always believe that you can overcome. The name of the game is surviving,” Long said. “Hopefully incidents like this can be avoided. If you see injustice being done against somebody — then speak out against it. Speak out, if you don’t then hate it, hate it with all your heart.” — ABC News

I was watching the news as this man, not too far from where I grew up, was being released into the loving arms of his family. That means my entire childhood, this man was mere miles away, locked up for something he didn’t even do. A system locked him away because it was easy, because his skin made him guilty.

I saw him walk out of the Albemarle Correctional facility and I could not help but weep.

He was a man filled with joy.

Not anger. Not rage. Not vengeance…but the desire to get out into life, visit family, and appreciate each day with gratitude. Given all he’s lost in life, his character of perseverance and faith are truly inspirational.

The Unnamed Woman on the Beach

I’ll be honest, I don’t know her name. I regret not ever snapping a picture of her, but though I have not seen her in about 5 years I can picture her face, her smile, her pleasant, wandering gait as clearly in my mind as if I’d just seen her this morning. The best I can do is describe this lovely lady and share her story with you, at least, what I know of it.

She was an elderly woman of Asian descent with a pleasant round face. I was living in Florida at the time and about once a month my family and I would travel the 45 minute drive to Ormond by the Sea at Ormond Beach and set up our beach chairs and towels for a day at the beach. This woman, every time we went, would come walking by, usually about mid-morning. She shared a smile, a wave, and sometimes would pause her walking to stare out over the sea. Often, she’d say a kind word before continuing her walk.

She carried a large walking stick with her. As she meandered down the beach, she’d pause to write out Bible verses on the sand to let the next beachgoers know that Jesus loved them. She would draw a large heart in the sand and then walk on. Every time we went to the beach we saw this sweet lady out there doing all she can to share kindness and love in the world. It was clear to me that she carried within her a great joy for life, one so great it burst from her each day and lifted the spirits of others. I often wonder what happened to the beach lady. I hope she is still there. In a way, I think she will always be there even long after her physical body is gone.

Shel Silverstein (September 25, 1930 — May 10, 1999), American writer, cartoonist, and poet

Born of Russian and Hungarian Jewish origin, Shel Silverstain grew up in Chicago. Getting started as a cartoonist, Silverstein made his mark with his iconic drawings, children’s poetry, and inspiring stories. Did you know that he was expelled from the university he attended due to poor grades? He was also a drop out at the Art Institute. A non-conformist with an ability to capture deep emotional life lessons in the simplicity of a children’s story or poem, Silverstein taught us to sit with life for a while — and appreciate it. To be a little more giving, a little more loving, and yes, to laugh more.

Make no mistake, this man followed his passion, his creativity, and made a literary mark on the world that is his living legacy. What I remember most about him was his instant identity. He didn’t put on “airs” for the world but presented his art and himself as he was, unapologetically. He let his art speak volumes. The Giving Tree, to date, is one of my favorite books of all time, sharing the story of a boy and the tree who gave everything of herself to love the boy. The story reminds us to take care with the generosity of others and also that when we think we have nothing more to give or no value left to our lives, we can still contribute to the world around us:

“I wish that I could give you something… but I have nothing left. I am an old stump. I am sorry…”
“I don’t need very much now,” said the boy, “just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired.”
“Well,” said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could,
“Well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest.”
And the boy did.
And the tree was happy.”
Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree

Have you found some inspiration here today? I ask you — what might you do differently today to live a little more authentically? A little more bravely? Humans, in all their complicated ways, can be immensely inspirational if you take a little time getting to know their stories. I encourage you today to look for the inspiration in the lives of the people around you.

And be the inspiration for someone else.

Thank you for reading.

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Guide to Breaking Up in a Pandemic (Without Losing Your Mind)

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