"Some of the contenders for this spot included Veronica Mars, Daredevil, and Batman," I began, inciting laughter, "because I'm more inspired by fictional characters than real people." Which brought on more laughter, because somehow that's funny, as if stories don't have power. "But I decided to go with comic book writer and artist David Mack. In his series Kabuki, which is about a ninja assassin who goes through a journey of introspection"—more laughs—"he says that we're all part of a collective consciousness. Not in a New Age, 'we are all one' way, but in the sense that we all, as individuals, have a personal responsibility to communicate and share our ideas. Each person has a voice, and we have to contribute; it's the only way to move forward as a society, as a race. We're all part of the culture. And I really connected with that, as someone who wants to leave his mark on the world. We can all leave our mark."
Then it went back to stories about grandmothers overcoming adversity and special cancer patients. My favorite answer came from a woman who said it was going to sound weird, but she was inspired by...the Bill of Rights. (Also: the scientific method. I decided she was awesome. Turns out, she had turned to a co-worker and declared, "I'm such a freak! I'm on another planet!" And then when she heard me start talking about Daredevil and Batman, she said, "Oh! Someone else is on my planet!") Coming in second was the man who was inspired by two red robins protecting their nest.
At the reception, the VP said he really liked my answer. He said I was a "deep thinker."
The first thing he said to me, though, was "This is going to sound weird, but...you've grown up." He started at the company just a few months after I joined and is one of the few people who's been able to observe my growth in the last four years.
It's strange, but this is the third time I've gotten this sentiment recently. At the AMWA conference, an old woman commented, "You look older." She meant it as a compliment. And last month as I was driving Hec home from the train station, he said that I looked so much more professional and mature than I had when he met me four years ago as a recent grad student.
I don't really know what's changed. It's odd to think that I've grown up and become an adult without realizing it.