I’ve been writing this post in my head for a while, going back and forth on how creepy the premise is. I guess since you’re reading it now, I’ve leaned into the “it’s creepy, but maybe will come across the right way” position on it. So here goes.
I’m constantly amazed at the ways social media connects me with people of my past. People who used to matter so much and for one reason or another stopped occupying tenancy in my heart and brain. Or people who didn’t really matter as much but I still find myself interested in as their photos pop up in my feeds from time to time.
Facebook tells me I have 834 friends, I’m up to only a hundred or so followers on Twitter (with no effort, mind you) and 420 people follow me on Instagram. I’m not bragging—I actually hope to get these numbers up someday. My point is that’s a LOT of people who I don’t talk to or pay attention to regularly, but some of them—particularly a handful of women—inspire me pretty deeply.
So I wanted to let it be known that I watch them (creepy, I told you) and I feel like I know them well even if I don’t know them at all anymore. In some cases, I never really knew them. And I thought it would be a cool social media experiment if I busted through the boundaries of cyber creeping and told them what I really think of their posts and challenge everyone reading this to do the same for the people they “follow” and watch most closely.
To be fair, there are so many people who I am currently close with who inspire me. My best friends are amazing and talented human beings, from my friend who battles Lupus and still does a beautiful job raising her two kids to my friend who opened her own real estate agency this year in the most gorgeous office I’ve ever seen. I have a friend who hikes mountains that hurt my eyes to look at and a friend who’s become a real boss-lady at her job and goes on elaborate trips to Mexico for hitting quota every year. I even have a friend with a horse named Chanel that makes time to care for an animal that lives in a barn a half hour away every day while still managing to work full-time and keep her home clean.
My friends are unbelievably inspiring. (PSA: if your friends don’t inspire you, seek new friends.)
But this isn’t about them, this is about my friends who don’t know they’re my friends. The ones who don’t know they impact my life daily even as they are no longer a part of it but are connected through the ether of Internet space.
In no particular order, here are some women who inspire me, the story of how we became friends and what’s happened in between. For my own familiarity’s sake, I refer to them below by the names I now know them by or knew them by, not necessarily what they go by themselves.
Cassie Claire-Cassie and I met when we were about 16 and waiting tables in the dining room of a retirement community. We were casual friends and I never knew too much about her life beyond our mutual sharing of which boys we were crushing on and just how hard it was to be teenagers.
Over the years as we’ve grown into adults, I’ve watched Cassie start her own photography business. And guys, she’s good. I mean, like, REALLY good. Her photos have been picked up by The Knot and about 1,000 other legit bridal magazines and websites. I get depressed when I think about how she hadn’t started her business when I got married, or how I wouldn’t have been able to afford her anyway. I look at her website in awe, not just of what she’s created but the way her mind and eyes work, the beauty she sees in the little details.
I’ve been reading Cassie’s posts from the beginning about saving up her money for equipment and space to do her craft and about how at times it’s been a struggle. And whether I’m right or wrong, based on her posts she seems to have really made it. Another thing to know about Cassie: she’s always gone against the grain. Her quirks—and her beautiful unique hair—are among her best qualities.
Cassie, you inspire me to start something from scratch, to fully commit to my “thing” and to make my dreams become reality. You inspire me to see work as a global endeavor and to occupy a passion entirely.
Erika Mann-Erika grew up a stones-throw away from me down the street. She was in a grade above mine and I don’t think we had many nice conversations…until about 5 years ago when we met up for drinks as Erika was thinking about making a career switch into my field. We sat and talked for hours as if we had been friends our whole lives, and while we didn’t end up working together I was glad to finally get to know my neighbor on a real level.
But Erika really started to inspire me when she became a mom right around the time I became a mom. From her posts, I knew Erika struggled to feed her son more than I struggled to feed my daughter, but I appreciated her raw honesty and the way she shared her most intimate personal challenges. I felt for her as she had what seemed like endless appointments to figure out how to best nourish her boy, but also admired how she infused a positive attitude into these obstacles. When I did have similar parenting experiences as Erika had, reading her posts helped me feel less isolated.
Erika, you inspire me to champion for other moms in questioning what “normalcy” means for early motherhood. Your humorous attitude toward raising your son and hard-working nature shine through your posts and I know, despite the days it doesn’t feel like it, you’re rockin’ being a mom.
Ashley Crelly-Ashley and I met in college during some of my more, ummm, wild days. I think early freshman year we may have fought over a boy and she wanted to beat me up—and she totally could have, I’m a wimp. But we got over that and by the next year we were going out to bars, having some drinks, laughing and chatting and just having fun.
We got a little closer when we took a few liberal arts classes together that we both got really into and have stayed friends on social media since. I don’t know what’s gone on in Ashley’s life fully, but I have watched as she’s posted about her relationships past and current and we’ve shared some more meaningful message exchanges. What’s remained clear to me through this time is that Ashley has relentlessly pursued her own happiness and seems to be in the best place in her life than ever before. Her quest for love has been more worth-watching than anything on Netflix. I look at photos of her with her fiancee and I actually smile when I see them both glowing.
Ashley, you inspire me to love deeply and to make the life I want for myself. Your quest for completeness leaves me in awe and I’m so glad you’ve found the pieces of life that make you feel whole.
Casey Wubbenhorst-Casey and I were so close in middle school, we had our own language. Literally. I have about a million fond memories of our time as friends riding our bikes through the neighborhood, swimming at the lake, drinking Cokes in Casey’s basement during sleepovers. I remember the smell of Casey’s house, the plaid accents and how Campbell’s decor lined the kitchen.
Dramatic youth nonsense tore us apart, but I miss Casey in my life all the time. Especially when I see pictures of her two little girls. When we were young I couldn’t imagine Casey living halfway across the country from where we grew up, but she does. And she has the most beautiful family. When I see their pictures, I’m so proud of the woman she’s become.
Casey, you inspire me to bring the wacky, fun, wonder we shared together as kids into the next generation you and I are both raising. You inspire me to be a good girl mom and I wish all the time I could get our little women together at Ladybug Park.
Mallorie Aquino- Mallorie and I met in the same circumstances as Cassie and I. I had a wealth of friends from that time of my life, many of whom I haven’t spoken to in at least a decade. Mallorie and I haven’t spoken in at least 15 years. What I loved most about Mallorie was that she was super sweet and we just giggled all the time together.
Unlike many of the others on this list, I really couldn’t tell you much about what’s going on in Mallorie’s life except this: she lives in Hawaii and she is constantly surrounded by water, plants and wildlife. I often see photos of her swimming with dolphins or other sea creatures—and not at SeaWorld with a tour guide. Mallorie doesn’t just like nature though, she experiences it and in a deep way most of us will never know ourselves. And she also makes jewelry out of seashells that I always want to buy.
Mallorie, you inspire me to seek out nature and to make it my home. To go further than just looking at my surroundings but to reach out and touch them with my own hands.
Julie Mercoglan-Julie and I don’t really know each other that well at all. She’s a friend of a friend, and we’ve probably only hung out one hands-worth of times 10 years ago or more.
But like many of my friends-from-the-past on social media, Julie has a kid now and I always am happy to see posts about her son. Lately though, something else in Julie’s posts has caught my eye: Julie’s fitness journey. Julie looks amazing, and from her posts I can tell she’s worked… HARD. Julie’s transformation has inspired me so much, I’ve desperately looked through her page to find out what she’s done and where she’s done it so that I can try to replicate it and have half the body she has.
Julie, you inspire me to care more about my health and fitness, to push beyond the limits I set for myself and put the work in to get it done. You look ah-freaking-mazing.
Nancy Koestenblatt-Nancy is the wife of a friend, a former colleague of mine, and just an unbelievably beautiful young woman. Nancy and I never got to hang out as much as I would have liked to—I think because Nancy was always about to have a baby during the time I was around!
But Nancy’s social media posts inspire me in a different way. From Facebook, I can tell Nancy is a woman of faith, and Nancy shares that faith in the most respectful and non-intrusive of ways. Nancy shares scriptures and readings that are meaningful to her, but Nancy doesn’t invite everyone to necessarily believe or participate in what she does. She finds time to be inspiring in her posts—which are also peppered with photos of her handsome three boys and witty memes about staying home and raising her kids—and it’s awesome.
Nancy, you inspire me to have faith, to question existence and how things come to us in life and to be thankful to a higher power.
Nicole Kosco-I have limited memories of hanging out with Nicole. I really only remember chatting with her on the school bus here and there and sitting near her when we were in the same place at the same time in high school. I’ve always remembered that Nicole’s hair is like my hair: we would have to flatiron it for hours if we wanted it straight and the second it got wet it needed a half a bottle of hair gel to keep a semi-decent wave.
And I’ve always thought Nicole was beautiful and very kind. And just like many on this list, I’ve watched Nicole post about her two gorgeous kids. Her son is one of the most handsome little boys I’ve seen and her daughter is stunning as well. I haven’t seen a post go up from Nicole where she and her kids didn’t look absolutely fabulous, but what inspires me most is seeing Nicole support everyone else in her posts. She cheers on people from our hometown who are doing well, she shows support for her family and I always see Nicole being so encouraging in comments on posts of mutual friends of ours. Nicole has a big heart, and I see it all the time.
Nicole, you inspire me to be kind and selfless, to share not just about myself but spread awareness and positivity about the people I know as well.
These are the women who silently inspire me, the ones I watch and want to be and the ones I am glad I have in my life, even at a limited capacity. If there’s one thing social media has done right, it’s open our eyes to not only what’s around us but who, and even when they’re not around.
So if you see someone constantly in your feed who inspires you, tell them. It can’t hurt, even if you’re like me and shy about sharing how much thought you give them when you walk away from Facebook. I’m sure they’d like to know. I know I would.