"When we first talked on the phone I was impressed with your tranquility. Your voice becalmed me and got me all focused. Then when I saw you today I was blown away by how pretty you are. I love your looks, you have beautiful eyes and your style! Throughout the day I fell in love with your empathy and your sharpness but most of all I enjoyed your openness. Thank you so much for that."
How did she react?
She smiled. "Thank you!" A few moments later she added, "Wow I can really tell this is opening up something in my heart!"
How did I feel?
Everyone has a role model. I am not talking that pop star whose poster you would stare at for hours when you were fourteen. I am talking someone who changed your life face to face.
The ways we come across those idols differ.
Sometimes you live with them for years until you figure out their greatness. Finally you appreciate them endlessly but it wasn't love at first sight. At other times life throws them right at you. It is the guy sitting next to you on a plane whose stories turn your life around. Or the girl who you will always remember saving a kid from being hit by a car with one quick move. That stranger at a party who listens to your drunk stories and shares a perspective on them no one has pointed out before. The woman who hands you a tissue when you sit in the park crying. Or Meike, the journalist who I spent last Friday with. This woman did not blow my mind by doing one particular thing; she got to me by being herself.
The calm, focused interview partner I had expected her to be after our phone call last week was who I met, yes; And an attractive woman, someone who had style, a beautiful appearance and charisma. First thing I gave to her: A big apology. I had forgotten my notebook which she had asked me to bring. "No problem", Meike said as she got up, "I'll get one for you." She went back home and returned 30 minutes later with a computer in her hands. I was sorry about my sloppiness, but more than that I was amazed at her spontaneity and ease. With the computer on the table and the camera in place we got started. She asked me questions, I answered. A normal interview, you might say, but no. This one was more- because it was lead by Meike. She provided the ground for me to walk on with her friendly, open eyes, her nods and her present "uh-huh"s. I did not do anything but float in her presence- Meike was a born conversationalist. Before I even noticed the interview was over and we started driving to our next location. In the car Meike unwrapped her humor. She told us stories from her neighborhood and I found myself bubbling over with laughter. She sure knew how to tell a joke. In passing she tamed her team when their teasing -- which we all loved -- got a little out of hand. The next hours were framed by the professionalism of the three of them and all of our mutual inspiration. Obviously Meike played a major role in that, coming up with ideas the minute something did not go according to plan. So you got that Meike was pretty, great at her job and a fun storyteller. All that was part of her turning into a spontaneous idol for me. But more than any of her traits listed so far it was the person I saw behind all that. The way that she communicated her ideas - clear, steady yet friendly and open to discussion - impressed me: She knew what she wanted. She was straight forward. If she didn't like something she just said no, and if she was all in she was not afraid to say yes. At the same time, towards the end of our day, she opened up about a conflict she was struggling with in her life. She did not hide the wide range of emotions present within her, she was not ashamed, and she talked about what was going on in a way that was both confident and fragile. It was that combination of strength and vulnerability that I admired immensely. This was the moment that ultimately turned Meike, the talented journalist with the pretty face, into Meike, the role model for me. If twenty years from now (can you believe it? She is twenty years older than me! I can say that because it's on Wikipedia...) I will be as clear and warm and fragile (and smart and good looking and rocking my job)- I will clap on my back pretty hard. This last conversation with her stuck with me for days and changed my perspective on conflicts I have in my life, not just because I heard what she thought about hers but because I saw and felt where she was. Thank you so much for that, Meike, it was a huge gift to me. All the best to you, keep being the awesome lady you are.