How Katharine Hepburn changed my life

When I was a kid I lived in the country, far away from the big city.

I knew that if I wanted to go to university — and get away from my current circumstances — I would have to make it happen myself. I would have to organize it and finance it on my own.

But sometimes when you feel you’re on your own, you’re not. Often there is someone whose example gives you the courage to make a major change.

For me that person was outspoken actress and icon, Katharine Hepburn (below, in a 1940 still by Clarence Sinclair Bull, for The Philadelphia Story). She played feisty, independent-minded women in films and was much the same off-camera.

Katharine Hepburn, The Philadelphia Story, 1940 by Clarence Sinclair Bull

“That’s all there is to life, being part of it.”

I read those words of Hepburn’s and I never forgot them.

As a teen I desperately wanted to be part of life — a richer, bigger life — which to me meant going off to university and living in a big city. There was energy there, intellectual stimulation and fresh, new ideas and ways of looking at the world!

I had outgrown my circumstances. I needed to stretch and grow and learn, to be challenged. I was hungry for it.

Hepburn’s independent spirit reinforced my resolve. I watched her films and read everything I could about her. Her passion for life and her view that you must take responsibility for your own destiny inspired and empowered me. It made me feel bold and strong.

Where would I be without Hepburn’s inspiration?

How I could have changed the course of my life without her inspiration is something I won’t allow myself to consider. Altering my circumstances was so critical to my well-being and to my future, that I cannot imagine what would have happened had I not done it. I won’t let myself imagine it.

Feeling inspired gives you courage and reinforces the courage you already have. It helps push you to make the changes that will move you forward and into a healthier place.

Katharine Hepburn’s advice for living:

  • “Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting. And you don’t do that by sitting around.”
  • “Without discipline, there’s no life at all.”
  • “The thing about life is that you must survive. Life is going to be difficult, and dreadful things will happen. What you do is move along, get on with it, and be tough. Not in the sense of being mean to others, but being tough with yourself and making a deadly effort not to be defeated.”
  • “We are taught you must blame your father, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers – but never blame yourself. It’s never your fault. But it’s always your fault, because if you wanted to change you’re the one who has got to change.”

But don’t forget your sense of humour. This quote inspires Bratty Kathy every single day:

“If you obey all of the rules, you miss all of the fun.”

c 2013 Kathy Barthel

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