Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It Doesn't Matter What You Do, Just Be the Best At It

I don't know about you, but I think watching truly talented people, who have worked hard to perfect their skill, whatever it may be, and who love what they are doing, is one of the most inspiring things. It doesn't really matter what they are doing, it's merely a medium. I first noticed this in high school. Many of my friends were in bands, and I remember watching them and being so proud of their work and talent. Even then, watching my friends perform in some nasty, sweaty, smoke-filled club made me want to be a better athlete. I now see this in my business savvy friends Adam and Bill. Though their careers are less spectator friendly, it is no less inspiring to see them perfect their skills and do work to achieve their goals. To hear Philip, a Special Forces medic and sniper, talk about his job fills me with pride and excitement, less because of what he does, and more because he is so good at it. Watching my training partners and friends here in Missoula is just the same, I mean who gets to ride 65 miles on a bike cheering for all of your friends for an entire day?!

Over Christmas I had the opportunity to head to the San Francisco to see my cousin dance. In high school I remember skipping school to go to West Virginia to watch her perform. In college I remember driving her to auditions in Washington and visiting her for far-flung summer programs and performances. As I flew down there I didn't really know what I was in for. When I landed in LA, I started to do some research on her company and read reviews of the The Nutcracker. I was blown away. A review by the San Francisco Chronicle showered the staging and my cousin with praise: "Steph Salts impressed as Marie, as much for her fresh, spunky acting as for her clean technique." The reviewer went on to say that "It may be the work that helps to restore the Oakland Ballet Company to its former glory." More astounding than anything, however, was the photo. There in the Bay Area's largest paper, was my little cousin, front and center, everything else paling around her, with the most contented and fulfilled smile on her face. This is what she was made to do.

Even with high expectations, the performance was nothing short of awesome. The theatre was one of the most beautiful I have ever been in. It's not modern or supremely luxurious, but is more of a preserved, anachronistic morsel from the annals of the gilded art deco age. Little Steph, as we call her, never really left the stage. Throughout the ballet I thought back through everything she has been through and overcome to be where she is. She left home at 14 to chase down this dream. She's fought through multiple rejections because of her height, and often struggles to find the money to support herself, she lives lean, works her ass off, both on and off the stage, and makes it work. More amazingly, however, is the fact that she does it with such humility, thankfulness, and grace.

Though she hasn't "arrived" she is closer to fulfilling her dreams than almost everyone I know, because she has poured everything into her passion. That afternoon 3,000 people stood to applause my Little Steph. Tears filled my eyes and pride filled my soul.

Therefore, 2010's most inspiring person of the year, at least according to this blogger, is "Little" Steph Salts. Cheers to you. You make me better at life.