Apparently, the thing I respect the most is generosity.

Describe what it takes for a person to earn your respect. We all admire different people we have come across for their leadership skills whether we realize it or not. This person could be a teacher, colleague, mentor, friend or family member. Pick one person, whom you admire for their leadership skills and write about the traits that make them special and how they have influenced you in some way. (300-500 words+)

When I look within myself, if I am honest, there is almost nothing that I can call Micaela Arena.

All of us are, to a certain extent, patchworks of other people we’ve met, places we’ve been, and things we’ve read or consumed on the internet. When I was younger and I met a person I admired, I would try almost to become them, to take their traits and make them my own.

It is profoundly difficult to pick just one person I admire for their leadership capacity. I admire so many people, and leadership takes so many different forms. I admire my mother for her grace and poise and boundless capacity to make people feel at home. It is a running joke among her coworkers that she missed her calling as a diplomat. I admire R, a dear friend, for her ability to take charge in a group project through sheer competence and force of personality and her capacity as a stage manager to juggle everything from a light cue not working to an actor smashing a pineapple on stage during one of two performances because he “wanted to try something different.” I admire her ability to thrive under pressure. I basically stole her work ethic and adopted it as my own. 

As a result, it feels somehow wrong to say that my mother or R earned my respect. Earning my respect makes it seem like they had to do a song and dance to win my approval, evoking the image of a trust-fund dilettante snapping their fingers and saying “Entertain me.” Them earning my respect implies that they were below me, and I, the supposed paragon of morality, bestowed respect onto them. It seems self-centering. 

But the people who had an incredible impact on my psyche were people who I never even bothered to think I respected—it was obvious, matter-of-fact, like the sky being blue or water being wet. Of course I admired them, who wouldn’t? 

The person who had the most impact on me outside of my family was a man who I will refer to as J. I met J when I was six years old, when my father would take me with him to karate. For two years, I sat on the benches, watching until I was old enough to start training in the right-hand side of the dojo with the other kids. J was a fourth-degree black belt at the time, and his speed and power were terrifying to behold. Most people in the dojo, because I was so young, were polite but cool when I started. J sought me out and talked to me, and I responded to that simple kindness like a flower to the sun. It was the first time an adult treated me like a person.

J, by example, showed me how to seize every moment and shake it like a terrier shaking a rat. The enthusiasm I bring to school and as a writing tutor at Hunter is his enthusiasm. The compassion and kindness I show to those I love and try to show to those I don’t is his compassion and kindness. He was also the type of person who would go out of his way to help people in whatever way he could. When my father was preparing for his second-degree black belt test, it was J who told him to meet him at a defunct racquetball court, where they would train for a good three hours together every weekend, J relentlessly correcting my father’s form. When I was thirteen and covered in zits, J, who is a dermatologist in his spare time, took me on as a patient and put me on Accutane, which was and is the nuclear option of acne treatment, but worked wonders on me. He was the person who, whenever class got out late, would always walk with me, and make sure I got home safe. He was someone who genuinely existed for other people, and it is that boundless generosity—generosity of time, attention, and spirit—that I admire and respect the most. 

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  1. We respect people who show us respect, including simple hellos. J is one of those people in your life who did not only acknowledge your presence but is kind and compassionate. It’s amazing to know beautiful souls like him.

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