The Wikipedia definition of 'hero' is: "a hero or heroine refers to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self sacrifice - that is, heroism - for some greater good of all humanity."
When I found out that St Wilfrid's Hospice have arranged a 'Hero Walk' for 21st September, it got me thinking about my own personal hero. Sure, I could write about my Mum & Dad but they both get quite emotional whenever I'm nice to them (I spent years torturing them with mood swings) or I could write about John Lennon, but I'd only need to include the link to the 'Imagine' video for you to understand the hype surrounding him.
No, my own personal hero is...somebody who does all of the above Wikipedia definition, every single day. They're somebody who is teaching me how to do the above, too:
Dear Carrie Lloyd (you've always said you dislike sentences that begin with your name, but see this as an online letter, almost. Go with it, please),
It's October 2010, I'm 17 and reading an article, on random acts of kindness, that you've just tweeted. I have no idea who you are (yet) but I know that your writing evoked something in me that I didn't quite understand; I think it was probably the first time I ever *truly* connected to a handful of words thrown together on a page.
I replied to your tweet and we exchanged contact details. I sent you some of my writing and you replied with an e-mail, the size of War and Peace, that remains to be the most treasured piece of feedback I've received. Ever since, I've struggled with criticism when others give it to me because it's never as nicely packages as your's.
In the four years that have followed our first e-mail exchange, our connection has become stronger and much more powerful; you guided me through my first bout of heartbreak, my last years of education and making a decision as big as moving to London, alone, at the age of 18. Alongside all of this, you've never once asked me to stop sending you e-mails with my writing attached, begging for feedback.
My inbox is at it's best when it includes an unread message from you...I'm at my best when I read that message.
Our first phone call involved you going to the toilet, whilst in the middle of an in depth conversation. Our first meeting saw you introduce me to red wine and promptly eat all of the pitta we were supposed to be sharing. Soon, I not only began to see you as my writing mentor (a title you've had very little say in) but a friend, as well.
There are three moments in our friendship that stand out for me, that I think completely warrant the title of a 'hero'. You're going to disagree, because you're not very good at receiving compliments...
1) The conversation we had in which you told me you were moving to America.
Your faith is quite a large part of you, just like my feet are for me. It's never been something you've shied away from or denied, choosing instead or make the most out of what can be an awkward conversation. From the very beginning, you chose to explain your faith to me in a way that almost made me want to read the Bible from cover to cover: it's just about love.
So when you told me you were moving to America, to study at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, it made perfect sense. Your purpose is so obvious, it's almost blinding, and in you doing something to fulfill it only provides me with a level of admiration I have for very few people.
Leaving behind a career, friends and family and a very cute dog to do exactly what you've been put on this Earth to do must be quite daunting. What happens if you get there and you decide you much prefer spending your Thursday evenings, sinking vino in the pub with your mates? But you've made it work, Carrie, and that gives me so much hope for what I believe to be my own purpose.
2) The WhatsApp message you sent me, announcing you were being published*.
The time difference between America and the UK can make our communications quite infrequent. Add to that both of us having crazy busy workloads, social lives to maintain and writing to do, it's safe to say we probably spent a lot of time meaning to contact each other but never quite doing so. Until September 2013.
I was sat in Hamburg airport, having just spent three days meeting one side of my family I'd never met. My brother and his girlfriend had announced they were expecting a baby. I'd drank enough German beer and eaten enough pretzels to last anyone a lifetime. There was so much I wanted to discuss with you but having had no Wifi made that impossible. It wasn't until I connected to the hotels internet that I realised you had already sent me a message. A message that simply said "I'M GOING TO BE A PUBLISHED AUTHOR!!! XXXX" - I couldn't contain my excitement, spilling Coca Cola all over the table and forgetting just where I was.
This was everything we'd spent the previous three years talking about and I honestly couldn't be more proud of you.
* Carrie's book, The Virgin Monologues, is out in November and I think you should all buy a copy.
3) May 2012, June 2013 and July 2014
May - I had just started a new job, I was finding my feet in London and was 100% sure I had made the wrong decision; you spent two hours on the phone to me, talking about everything from bitter brides to how best to enjoy myself at work. You gave me pointers on dealing with bitchiness in the office. Which nail varnish to wear with a particular outfit. Just why I shouldn't give up on a situation that was so obviously meant to be. I hung up, went and ate a load of Chinese food and never once regretted my decision again.
June - after spending a year embracing a new writing adventure, it came to a particularly upsetting end and again, I started to doubt myself regarding my writing. Once again (there seems to be a reoccurring theme here), you phoned me and mocked me for getting a tattoo I probably shouldn't have got, told me to cry a bit more and then move on from it. That phone call made the world of difference and I suddenly didn't feel so bad; that's one of the many powers you have which I'm yet to get my head around, but you can utter one word and I'm back in the right mind frame again.
July - you were visiting the UK for the summer and I filled your phone with text after text after WhatsApp message after e-mail on details of every single aspect of whatever was clouding my brain. Your responses came at a time when I have never felt more alone, when I needed somebody to literally pick me up, shake up and tell me to get my act together. Which is exactly what you did, except virtually and in a nicer manner.
You encourage me to be courageous, to show the world exactly what I have to offer; to never apologise for being sensitive or inquisitive or for making mistakes. You remind me, on a daily basis, that I have so much of the world to see and articles to read and people to meet. To not rush the time I've been given and to appreciate it every single step of the way.
You've never once told me off or encouraged me to cloud my judgement with negativity, something that can be so easily done.
You provide me with inspiration by the bucket load and your name is the name I'm most excited to write on the 'Dedications' page of my first book.
The invitation to the Hero Walk, mentioned above, invites you to "join hundreds of others descending on Eastbourne's beautiful seafront for this 10km (or 5km) challenge, dressed as, or walking for the hero of your choice."
Now, whilst I do think it'd be amazing to wear Carrie's Louboutins for 24 hours, I'm not taking part in the Hero Walk, but if I was, then I would 100% be walking for everything Carrie has instilled in me over the last four years: the phone conversations, the mentality, the life lessons, the text messages, the e-mails, the songs, the book recommendations and the memories we're yet to make.
I might not be walking for you, Carrie, but I promise I will be making you proud...and I do still expect you to buy me bubbles...