Pictured above is my Mam. Over the past two years she's had to deal with a hystorectomy, during which the doctors discovered advanced Ovarian cancer. She had chemotherapy for months, which drained her energy and made her ill, and was finally given a small 'all-clear' - not an eternal one, but a break in the illness. She changed her whole lifestyle - food, exercise, lifestyle choices - according to research she did on healing cancer. She has worked hard to overcome the disease in a pro-active way. This summer, she suffered a setback. Barely two years after the first occurance of cancer, she was told that it had come back. A recurrance at this stage is not good news. But my Mam battled it, as she battles everything, and though she has to have radium treatment for a few weeks, they are confident that she will again go into remission - and hopefully stay in remission for another couple of years.
My Mam also failed her Leaving Certificate, in her past. When I was young, she worked three jobs to keep us going - waitressing, office work, cleaning...whatever she and my Dad could do to keep four kids up and running. Over those tough years she kept up her reading and writing - the joys of these hobbies hadn't been killed with the terrible school system of her time, and her love of learning kept her going. She wrote short stories - many of which were published in magazines, and one of which she won a Cecil Day Lewis short story prize for. She became interested in returning to her education for her own fulfillment. Open University offered the flexibility of distance learning - meaning she could continue to work full-time, as she needed to. Over the course of six years (rather than working straight through, she took breaks) she studied and gained her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and History. During that time she worked as a secretary in a secondary school in Naas. Last year, despite coping with cancer, she enrolled and was accepted into the Higher Dimploma in Education course in Maynooth University. It was a hard year, but she got through. This summer, barely a week after getting her fantastic results on the H-Dip, she got the bad news on her cancer.
But this week, she attended her graduation ceremony, and I was lucky enough to be there with her. In the next few weeks she will not only continue her battle with the disease, but begin work as a secondary school teacher in the very school she began her time as a secretary in.
THIS is a role model.
Over the years, stupid celebrities come and go. But for the past while it seems that the media actively celebrates stupidity. Pushes girls and women into the spotlight who lack the intelligence, cop-on or self-respect to act with decency, decorum or any class of humility.
We have watched Brittany yanked back into the limelight this week, only to be vilified and downtrodden again. Do we take joy in this? But even worse than the contemptable behaviour of big-wigs and music execs pushing obviously unstable and exploited females into the glare of media, is the increasingly moronic behaviour of so called 'smart' girls in popular culture. Take, for instance, Avril Lavigne. Now, I don't like her music. I think it's trite, boring and mind-numbingly unintelligent. BUT, that doesn't matter - I don't need to like her music. But what I do care about is her comments in public. Apparently, some girls look up to her - and it's a sad state of affairs when young girls not only sing along to her mindless lyrics, but listen to her comments in magazine interviews.
Here are the Ten Commandments of Avril Lavigne, as given to 'Q' magazine (http://www.q4music.com/) recently.
"DEAL WITH IT
Selling 24 million albums hasn't really affected me, but it has changed things. I can't walk into a room full of people any more without everybody turning their heads, and I can only eat in certain restaurants where I know I won't get hassled. But that's OK. I was born to do this, and so I've learned how to cope.
DEVELOP AN IMAGE
Someone like Kelly Clarkson is beautiful and has a pretty voice, but with me you get a much stronger image. I'm tough, I have a look that girls want to copy, and I sound a particular way. It's good if you're not easily ignored. And I'm not.
DON'T GET MAD, GET EVEN
I was 17 when my first album (Let Go, 2002) came out, and all of a sudden I had to spend my days doing interviews. Listen, when you are 17 you don't know how to hold a conversation with an adult, and you pretty much don’t want to. But I learned to channel that annoyance into my music.
PARTY HARD. BUT NOT TOO HARD
When I go to a party, I am the party! I'm the girl doing shots, jumping on tables, screaming and getting wasted. Am I advocating drugs? No! When I say get wasted, that doesn't mean go crazy. Drink in moderation. Be responsible, yeah?
PRACTISE GOOD KARMA
I am a very giving person. When the hurricane thing happened (in New Orleans, August 2005) I went to my closet, filled six boxes of stuff and said to my assistant, "take it to Katrina!" I also like to give stuff to people who are my "workers", especially if they don't make much money.
It's important to be thankful, even if you're poor. I mean, come on, we all have clean water — well, ok, not people in the developing world. It's important to remember where we came from and just how lucky we are to be here.
I'm not particularly religious, but I am spiritual. What kind? Feng shui, mostly, and energy. I'm good at picking up people's energy, like I'm receptive or something.
FINDING MR RIGHT
I got married last year (to Deryck Whibley of Sum 41) simply because I was lucky enough to find the right guy. Did I tame him (Whibley once confessed to a fondness for mushrooms and ecstasy)? Hey, we were both party animals once, so we've tamed each other.
I want to get into movies next, a lead role in a super cool indie flick. I've been looking at scripts for the past two years now and most of them have been shit, but I know I could be real good at it. I have an agent now, and everything.
People love me and people hate me, but I'm comfortable in my own skin and that's what counts. And anyway, if you do hate me, you're the loser, not me."
This is NOT a role model.