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One of my biggest role models is like an older sibling to me. I don’t know her well, like one would know an older sibling, and we never fight, but I look up to her and turn to her for help with various things. She loves horses, and she always looks so happy. I know it’s impossible to always be happy, but I admire her for trying.
Although she is a full head taller than me, it never stopped her from reaching down to my level. She has a smile that, as cliché as it sounds, lights up her entire face. Her smile illuminates her deep blue eyes and freckles. Her fair skin and light brown hair give her a calm aura. And even our age difference, at least four years, did not stop us from becoming friends.
She taught me how to keep my back straight and how to stay calm when cantering Jasper (a horse that I don’t particularly like.) Her love of horses and her joy of life are apparent in everything she does. She gives me inspiration for everything I do and everything I write. She’s an incredible person to talk to, and always relatable. Sometimes she surprises me, but most of the time she makes me laugh.
One day we were in the barn during riding because it was pouring. I groomed Pony, my favorite horse in the world. Shanna held his lead rope and sat on a bail of hay. We joked around about random things. She told me little stories about life in the Netherlands.
I don’t remember what we had been talking about at that exact moment, except that underage drinking came up. I learned that the drinking age in the Netherlands is 16, compared to our 21. She told me a story how she would drink, and then ride her bike home in the cold air, becoming mostly sober again by the time she got home. Is there a law against drunk biking? I don’t know. Even though she surprised me, she is still one of my biggest role models to this day. She showed me that she, and all other counselors, are real people. No counselor is perfect, but they all can do bad things and still be great.
On the last day of camp, she handed me a little blue envelope and told me not to open it until I left camp. I remember feeling the anticipation of the letter burning in my back pocket. It is the single best letter I have ever received. I used to have it memorized. Whenever I think about it, I feel calm and happy.
After camp, we continued to write back and fourth every few weeks, from the U.S. to the Netherlands. We wrote often until January, including pictures and other random things in our letters. She told me all about her horses and I told her about an American high school.
In January, she decided that she wasn’t going back to camp, and was allowed to “friend me” on Facebook. Since last January, we were able to speak every once in a while, updating each other on our life.
This past summer, she sent me a letter to read on Mount Washington. She remembered to write one, and I look up to someone who can remember something as small as sending a letter to an American teenager. She knows how much I value that letter.
We spoke a few times after camp, and then one day, I was upset about something. She messaged me after she had “stalked” my homecoming pictures on Facebook. She said I looked beautiful, which made my day. She wanted to know what dances here were like. She thought our dances were similar to those in the movies, so I told her what they were really like. We then proceeded to talk about being a teenager. She comforted me with what was bothering me, even though for her, drinking at 16 was normal. I don’t want to ever drink; I simply don’t believe in it, especially for teens.
It was hard to separate myself from some of my friends because all of a sudden they were doing things that I don’t agree with and refuse to do, and I knew nothing would ever be the same again. She comforted me by telling me that things can get better. She gave me advice on how to maintain my own beliefs while still associating with my friends. I didn’t want to lose my friends in because of a single night. She helped me believe that things with my friends could become normal again. It made me relax. And, anyone who can make me relax must be doing something right.
I admire her ability to do everything she does. She knows what she wants to do, and will give all her effort to do it. I want to be someone, like her, who never stops trying to succeed.
I haven’t seen her since the summer of 2009, and I may never see her again, but she is a terrific influence for me. She helped my love for horses, riding, and camp, grow to new heights.
Some people leave lasting impressions on you forever, no matter what the case, whether they are siblings or friends. I know that she has influenced me in a positive way. I won’t ever be able to forget that. I want to be the positive influence she was for me, for others as well.