If you ask broadly, you shall receive broad answers, and that's exactly what I got when I put the question out into the universe on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram: "What was one thing that made your life better in 2014?"
I'm happy to report that people adopted dogs. People built awesome bookshelves. People had cool Twitter conversations. But I quickly realized I was going to have the most all-over-the-place list of favorite stuff ever. So instead, I decided to curate and find 10 women who have stood out to me above the rest this year so I could tell you just how much I love them -- and why you should, too.
I know you will have hundreds of suggestions of your own, so please fill the comments up with your own nominations. Lists like these are my favorite because it always leads to me discovering my newest life-changing obsession.
And now, my current 10 female inspirations of 2014 are...
1. Amanda Palmer, author of "The Art of Asking"
Can a book trailer change your life? Because Amanda Palmer communicates in a near tear-jerking sequence the power of the ask. Please buy this book and see all of her videos online. Then ask for a hug. Ask for help. Just ask. Don't live to regret it.
2. Mo'Ne Davis, athlete
I know you have heard about this athletic Little League World Series wunderkind, and if you haven't, oh boy are you in for the best day ever. Only 13, she has redefined "throwing like a girl" forever. Then Chevrolet reached out and made this gorgeous video about her story, which honestly, touched me somewhere deep inside my most tender inner child. (Yeah, that's the lamest thing I've ever written, but it's also true.) Mo'Ne is doing it right, and if you're breathing, she'll soon be your role model, too.
3. Mindy Kaling, creator and star of "The Mindy Project"
I realize that Kaling is a bit long in the tooth (and by no means some 2014 "breakout") compared to some of my other entries on this list, but this showrunner and star never fails to captivate me, and this year has been absolutely exceptional, including the hilarious run of recent episodes on "The Mindy Project."
Here's one pop culture moment in particular you may have missed.
In a viral clip talking about backhanded compliments, Kaling said: "It takes a lot of effort to look like a normal/chubby woman."
It was this comment to Jimmy Kimmel that articulated what I think so many women feel when they dare to venture into the world of social media -- or outside for that matter. We need her voice in as many vehicles as possible, please. Also, I kind of love the whole "Wreath Witherspoon" invention.
4. Michelle Monaghan as "Maggie" in "True Detective"
Please don't click on this video link if you have not watched the biggest breakout series of HBO so far this year. Spoiler alert would be an understatement. But if you have watched the series already (or watched and rewatched if you are like me), this sequence of the very best scenes between Maggie (Michelle Monaghan) and Rust (Matthew McConaughey) shows the simmering intensity of her role which might just outshine the two male leads even. And her precocious daughters on the show? Forget about it.
5. Tove Lo, singer of "Habits"
"I eat my dinner in my bathtub/ Then I go to sex clubs." Best two lines, ever. There have been nights when I have just clicked replay, replay, replay on this video as the haunting sequence of it is so raw and visceral it speaks to some deep level of pain and resilience deep within. She's just fantastic. I can't get enough, and this year she has broken out in a gigantic way. Listen to everything she's done. Then be patient while she lets her voice recover.
6. Amy Poehler, author of "Yes, Please"
Fine, unless you are a total cultural illiterate, then you know who the former "SNL" and current "Parks and Rec" star is. But here's the real question. Have you read her book?
Because I just finished it, and holy crap, I did not expect to love this book so much. It might even be better than "Bossypants" which is probably blasphemy to say. There is advice contained in this I simply never would have expected -- and is honestly invaluable for anyone, in any field. She is wise, and she shoots straight. When Poehler articulates the power in no-regrets shutting down male entitlement at its start, the results are chill-bump good.
7. Alicia Garza, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter
Social activism has so many rock stars breaking out into national and international consciousness right now but it's especially awesome to see Alicia Garza gaining attention as one of the strongest thought leaders of the New Civil Rights Movement. Her Twitter feed is a must-follow and the work she is doing to spread awareness and change the narrative on racial injustice and police brutality is absolutely vital.
8. Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson in "Broad City"
If you want to know how success is done, look no further than "Broad City." I recommend this New Yorker article to people all the time because the breakdown in how these two made it and got their deal with Comedy Central is nothing short of inspirational. While so many entertainment people sit around waiting to be picked or discovered, these two picked themselves and set a serious production schedule on their web series.
What happened next? It led to more and more heat until before you know it, they have currently amassed an influence even more powerful (arguably) than "Girls."
9. Michelle Phan, YouTube beauty guru
It's easy to dismiss the YouTube stars (or be jealous of them) but Michelle Phan is undeniably likeable and simply phenomenal at what she does. If you've ever tried to do a video on beauty you know how difficult it actually is to make it look easy. Right now the only beauty experts I regularly consult are probably xoVain and Phan. She has turned me onto many of my favorite products and small little tips are exactly what makes a huge difference in how you look. I'm thrilled to see her videos reach millions and millions of hits (and for her income to be reaching the same amount). She deserves it.
10. Janet Mock, author of "Redefining Realness"
I have several feminist heroes, but I believe Janet Mock is my current top obsession. If you're looking for a good holiday book to give your friends or family, "Redefining Realness" offers the perfect gift of inspiration and words to change your heart. The only way to do her book justice is to let her speak for herself.
And as Mock writes: "I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community. I hope that my being real with you will help empower you to step into who you are and encourage you to share yourself with those around you.”
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.