Tuesday, December 4, 2007

My heroes

When I woke up this morning, I knew today would be a blue day. I’ve been feeling edgy and anxious. Work is stressful right now. My commute is long. My finances are tight. My house is a mess. My holiday “to do” list is piling up. My eating habits suck. My yoga and meditation practice is nonexistent. I am overwhelmed and feeling the burden of adult responsibility. I am only in my 30s, but today, I feel old and tired.

It’s a new agey cliché, but the universe always gives you what you need. At a monthly staff meeting this morning, someone brought up Nola Ochs and Barbara Hillary, and I vowed never to feel old and tired again. Have you heard of these ladies?

Meet Nola Ochs
Nola Ochs is 95 years old, and this spring she graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Fort Hays State University in Kansas. Ochs took her first class at the college in 1930. One assumes that life intervened. There was the Depression and the Kansas Dust Bowl. Ochs married and had four children, 13 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. In 1972, when her husband of nearly 40 years died, Ochs began taking college courses here and there. She completed some online classes, before deciding to move 100 miles from her farm to an apartment near the university. She completed her studies in art and history this year with a 3.7 GPA. Her 22-year-old granddaughter graduated with her. SOURCE

Ochs hopes to find a job as a storyteller on a cruise ship.

Meet Barbara Hillary
Barbara Hillary, a 75 year-old cancer survivor, trekked to the northernmost point of the North Pole this year. She is one of the oldest people and the first black woman to achieve that feat. USA Today reports:

Hillary, of Averne, N.Y., grew up in Harlem and devoted herself to a nursing
career and community activism. At 67 and during retirement, she battled lung
cancer. Five years later, she went dog sledding in Quebec and photographed polar
bears in Manitoba.

Then she heard that a black woman had never made it to the
North Pole.

"I said, 'What's wrong with this picture?'" she said.
"So I sort of rolled into this, shall we say." SOURCE

Eagles Cry Adventures, a company that guides adventurers like Hillary, offers two ways to get to the North Pole. Travelers can be dropped off at the Pole by helicopter or embark on a grueling 18-day cross-country trip complete with the danger of polar bear attacks. Guess which one Hillary chose, undaunted by the $21,000 price tag or the fact that she had never skied before? She simply enrolled in skiing lessons, hired a personal trainer, saved her money and solicited private donors.

What’s next for Hillary? Like Ochs, she is looking ahead.

…[Hillary] hopes her journey will inspire hope in other cancer survivors.
With her feet back on dry land in New York, she is already plotting a new
adventure: that of a global-warming activist.

"What if?" she said. "I'd like to go and lecture to different groups on
what they can do on a grass-roots level (to fight global warming)."

God I love stories about gutsy women.

Today, I wish for myself, and everyone reading this, a little of the can-do spirit Nola Ochs and Barbara Hillary possess.

All glory comes from daring to begin.

Photo of Barbara Hillary by Richard Drew/AP


mrshadow33 said...

Another excellent post Tami. These ladies are indeed heroes and role models. More importantly,it shows that it is never too late to achieve your goals and dreams. I will print this information out and use it for more motivation for myself. I also intend to share their story to my students and show them that there are no excuses in life. That whatever they want in life, they have to pursue it via hard work, determination, faith and the belief in one's for it to become reality.
Thanks again for the post. Mr. Shadow signing off.

DMB said...

Definitely inspiring. They remind me of the older people in Asia (particularly Japan and China).

We need to hear more stories like these until they no longer become an oddity.

Tami said...

I'm a GenXer and I think we are kind of an impatient generation. (All that MTV, y'know.)It's a valuable lesson for me to learn that sometimes a big achievement is the sum of lots of little steps that may take a long time, but if you want something, the wait and work are worth it.

Tami said...


It seems we approach aging two ways in this country: Either fall apart after years of overwork and poor health habits or fight aging tooth and nail with botox and hipster clothes. We don't see too many examples of people aging gracefully and actively.

Lisa said...

Wow! How wonderfully adventurous these two are. OKAY, I'm in my 30s too, I vow to never complain about my knees again!!!


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