This is tough and easy to answer at the same time. When I look at who I should give credit to for being a big influence on me, I would immediately exclude my parents who are a big factor in molding me into the person that I am. To me, they are a given in the mix of my upbringing and existence, so they are not sources of “influence”.
Instead, I would look beyond the immediate — those are the forces or the people whose energy and very existence have swayed us one way or the other.
Growing up, my father’s sister, Auntie Lydia, had practically raised us. She used to be a member of a religious order ( a nun), but she had to request for dispensation to leave because of several afflictions that befell her. She had cancers one after the other, managing to survive 21 or so operations. Talk about a living miracle.
Auntie Lydia was the one who exposed us to fairy tales, spoke to us in English (which irritated my mother no end because she was afraid we wouldn’t be able to communicate with our grandma, her Mom), and taught us to be prayerful and to always be observant of good manners.
She and I were particularly close. She admonished me to avoid speaking slang English ( so no “gonna, wanna, etc.”, taught me about the saints and our religion, and was basically a second mom to me. She passed away when I was in my twenties. We were so close that I couldn’t bear the thought of thinking about moving to the US because she wouldn’t be able to come with me. Her athritis always made it difficult for her to stay in a cold room, much less live in a cold place. I remember she would tuck us to bed and make sure we went to sleep, but she would sleep outside the room because she couldn’t stand the airconditioning.
She taught me to keep some space, no matter how tiny between me and my closest friends, as she would always say “Familiarity breeds contempt.” She encouraged my talents but told me to remember to cling to humility.
I still hear her “voice” or see her face at the back of my head from time to time, goading me on, encouraging me to move forward.
The second person I can think of is one of my favorite former bosses who taught me to have a good work ethic, and who showed me an elegance in writing while I was trying to hone my own skills. I had worked for her father, but I had essentially been under her direct supervision.
I learned paragraph styling and business writing from her. How to structure your business proposition to make it sell. She always told us to do our work well or not do it at all.
I looked up to her because despite her fiery temper, she had a very sweet side that made her open to showing her fondness for the people she worked with. I had the highest respect for her as a boss, a writer, a mother, a daughter. She was not afraid to recognize talent and industry in the people who worked for her, and she made me feel I was good at what I did.
I would not have left that job if it wasn’t for that respect for her. Certain circumstances had influenced me to decide to seek other employment, but I took the lessons I learned from her to heart to every job I took afterwards.
I am still thinking of my third person… to follow soon.