Everyone takes inspiration from those who came before them, I believe. When I was studying at my University, one of the books I was assigned to read was Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. For some reason, the morality and strength of all four little women (plus their mother) really resonated with me. So when it came time for me to select “someone who came before me” to examine and learn from, I wanted to know more about the author who created these inspiring and wonderful characters. I should have expected her to be just as amazing.
Lesson #1: Live plainly and think highly.
Louisa May Alcott was raised as a Transcendentalist during the time of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. For those of you who aren’t sure what a Transcendentalist is (or have never heard of the book Walden), it is an early 19th century movement to find “an original relation to the universe,” as Emerson put it. You can find more information about it here. In any case, the education she had from her father and his contemporaries Thoreau and Emerson gave Alcott a strong belief that she should focus on a thoughtful connection to the world around her–beyond society’s fads and distractions. And, to be honest, the idea is just as relative in today’s world; the world offers so many distractions and escapes from reality that many people fall into what I like to call foot-in-mouth syndrome. This sort of attempt to really connect and discover yourself is actually quite admirable.
Lesson #2: Don’t ever give up.
Alcott grew up in a time when she was at a double disadvantage; she was born into poverty, and she was a woman. Her father moved her family out to a cottage rental when a business deal went south, and in order to help her family make ends meet, Alcott joined the work force at an early age. At age 15, she reportedly vowed that she would “do something by and by. Don’t care what, teach, sew, act, write, anything to help the family; and I’ll be rich and famous and happy before I die, see if I won’t!” She then went on to work any job she could find until finally achieving her dream of being a writer. This sort of determination is an extremely valuable trait in any day and age, and I, for one, will attempt to achieve it within my own life.
Lesson #3: Follow your passions.
As stated above, Alcott achieved her dreams despite all odds against her. She had wanted to be a writer from an early age, most likely due to the influence of family friends Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathanial Hawthorne, and Margaret Fuller, and she wrote plays for her sisters and her to act out in her younger years. She began publishing her poetry and fiction under a gender-ambiguous pen name, and eventually published Little Women successfully as Louisa May Alcott. She wrote stories and published up until her death in 1888. She found what made her happy and pursued it her entire life with a steadfastness to which we can all reach for.
Too often we give up when things get rough or we are denied success. I, for one, will attempt to reach for my dreams with an awareness and determination, and try, try, try again!