We Are All Under The Influence

by Elissa Bedwell

People Watching by Stuart Richards

“You don’t have to be a ‘person of influence’ to be influential. In fact, the most influential people in my life are probably not even aware of the things they’ve taught me.” – Scott Adams, “Dilbert” comics creator, writer and artist

The thought for this blog came to me about 6 months ago, during the dreary months of winter. I was feeling the melancholy influence of long and dark nights filled with cold winds and lack of personal interaction. Even though I was generally around a large number of people at work and spent my evenings attending night classes, I still felt this sense of disconnection.

In the last few years I had lost a large number of friends due to the changes that life brings (promotions, moving out of state, traveling abroad, and the most permanent change of all, death). I still kept in touch with these people on a semi-regular basis and knew the basics of how their lives were moving along, but I really missed the closeness of our collective friendships.

I could always count on seeing them on a weekly — if not daily — basis. We went on road trips and vacations together. We attended one another’s weddings and funerals. We cooked together and threw parties together. We wrote books together, played music together and loved each other unconditionally. We were a family.

As each person’s life grew and expanded, we grew farther apart, even though we all expressed nothing but good wishes and luck in the new endeavors. It seemed that geography would separate us on more than a physical level — it would separate us emotionally and spiritually. As time passed, however, I learned that distance could not take away our connection to one another. It would only change it and transform it into something new.

Yellow Butterfly

“Personal transformation can and does have global effects. As we go, so goes the world, for the world is us. The revolution that will save the world is ultimately a personal one.” – Marianne Williamson

Change and transformation are something that humans run from every day. We set up routines in life so that we do not have to experience change. We try to put the inevitable on hold in a myriad of ways by recalling the perceived magnificence of youth rather than accepting our present state of being and wisdom, holding onto relationships or careers that no longer fulfill us, remaining stuck in a behavior or thought pattern that no longer match our current emotional state, and even refusing to better ourselves or create new goals for fear that we are unworthy of the greatness that might lay in store.

We are all caterpillars who refuse to become butterflies. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) for us, we have no choice in the matter. That is to be our fate. It’s sad to resist such a beautiful outcome, but we do it every day, and have done so since time immemorial.

While contemplating my perceived lost relationships, I realized that they were not really lost at all. They had simply transformed into something more beautiful and more real. These weren’t relationships that were to be short-lived and forgotten, or the opposite, life-long and stagnant. They were honest relationships that have proven to withstand everything that the world could throw at them and still come out swinging. They are champions.

Camera on The World

“It would be difficult to exaggerate the degree to which we are influenced by those we influence.” – Eric Hoffer

When I think of who I was in the past, who I am today, and who I hope to become in the future, I realize that it is all really just a series of influences from my connections in the world. Whether or not those connections are face-to-face or long distance makes no difference. They have all made a lasting impression on myself as a person and I owe a great debt to what those connections and relationships have taught me.

In the age of the internet, my circle of connections has grown exponentially. Not only am I touched by those who I come into personal contact with but I can also be touched by those who lived hundreds or even thousands of miles away. The “friends” that I have made (and yes, I’ll refer to them as friends) via a series of linked computers have had just as an important mark on me as my family and friends have made.

Some of these friends come in the form of actual emails and conversations and some are just a nameless face behind a blog, a website or a podcast. They have no idea who I am and vice-versa. Nevertheless, they have created a ripple in my pond that I believe touches the ponds of other people that I know (or, in the case of the internet, do not really know at all).

It excites me to think that life is fast becoming less physical and more emotional — ethereal, even. Not that a physical relationship with someone with whom you can share actual space, hold hands, sing along to the same song, share a glass of wine or offer a shoulder to cry on is less important. It’s just that needing to physically come into contact with people is not a necessary component for personal growth.

It’s the same with literature, art, photography, music, writing letters or even using the telephone. It’s the thought that is shared that is important. Not the means in which it is shared. It is the act of sharing — of touching — of creating a connection that is capable of causing change in another that is at the heart of it all.

On this blog I plan to explore how we touch one another’s lives. I will write about some of my own experiences and I will also reach out to those who have influenced me in my own life, and ask them to share their own connections of influence and how they have helped shaped the person they are today, as well as the person they hope to become in the future.

I hope you enjoy it and see the beauty that is in everyone’s story. I welcome submissions from anyone who wants to share their own account, whether or not we have ever conversed, either in person or online. You can keep it anonymous or offer full disclosure. The choice is yours. The important thing is that you share your knowledge with others and keep the ripples in the pond going.

After all, we are all just catepilars deciding whether or not to risk becoming a butterfly.