The Boys on My Walls

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli


I had a big poster of Rocky on my ceiling when I was growing up. On my CEILING, so I could look at it while I was falling asleep. You know who was taped next to him? Jim McMahon (former Bears football player) standing next to a black bear. Why did I love him, too? I have no earthly idea. But he had a coveted ceiling spot, right amidst all the glow-in-the-dark star stickers that peppered my ceiling and helped me fall asleep along with the “light night love songs” radio station which softly played the likes of Richard Marx and Chicago as I drifted into dreamland.

Sharing spots for my affection on my walls were River Phoenix and Kirk Cameron.

Later, everyone but River would be taken over by a full-room homage to James Dean.

Ah, the boys on my walls.

Do kids still put posters on their walls of people they adore? I wonder if that was a thing of the 80s, or if young boys and girls still wear their developing hearts on their ceilings and walls?

I still look so fondly on Rocky, River, and James: rebels, all of them. In hindsight, I wonder if the boys on my walls were not so much about crushes but more about helping me shape myself in some way, identifying qualities that I either caught glimpse of or longed for in myself.

Take Rocky. You see, I love Rocky. I mean lu-uh-uvvvv. Yes, the dialogue is terrible. Yes, the acting is horrible for the most part. Yes, Adrienne is prone to yelling at odd moments during heart-felt motivational speeches to Rocky. But I mean, who isn’t on the edge of their couch waiting to see who will climb their way up the ropes first—Apollo or Rocky?!

My favorite part in every one of the movies is the training montage that follows Rocky’s “eye of the tiger” moment—the moment where he overcomes whatever doubting or moping he is doing and prepares to kick butt. Those training montages are the best. I still remember standing in front of the mirror in my room and doing my own interpretive dance to the montage music from Rocky IV. Sometimes, I still play that music in my head when I need a “C’mon Erika! Get it together!” shot in the arm. #IAmNotAshamed. One of my co-workers and I have joked/not joked about creating a professional development workshop called “The Eye of The Tiger” that is entirely Rocky-based. Look for it, people.

Who knows, maybe they were just crushes.

But maybe, just maybe, each of them, in some way, shone a light for me that extended beyond their adorable good looks (cuz, you know, c’mon).

Maybe Rocky helped me tap into a kick-a$$ spirit of gumption and tenacity. Perhaps River gave me a glimpse of what authenticity looked like in action. It’s possible James ignited a spark of tender-spirited angst.

Because why are we drawn to anyone, for that matter? Whether larger-than-life celebrities who hold spots on our walls or regular everyday people who have an irresistible spirit, the people we are drawn to are people who ignite something within us, and that is not to be ignored. So whether it’s Rocky or my children or a dear friend or my husband or the woman that always rings up my groceries…I would do well to pause and reflect on exactly what it is they ignite in me, and honor the fact that they do.

Who ignites you?       


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"The Boys on my Wall", The Leadership Program, Inc. 2015

Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.