You know what I hate?
Essays where you have to write about your role-model.
You know what I hate about them?
Typically, they want you to name one person as your hero, describe them and state what you find inspiring about them. I like writing (no duh!), but this essay never comes easily to me. I have a million and one role models and at the same time, I have none at all. I don’t consciously decide to like a person and emulate them; I consciously decide to like different character traits and I try to match them with people I know or people who I’ve read about.
When I say I don’t have a role model, I always get sad, pitying looks. Like, I don’t pay attention to people around me, or I don’t read enough or worse- I don’t know any admirable people. Because that’s not true. I know several talented, hardworking, intelligent and creative individuals. And I read plenty. But I don’t have a role-model. The thing is, I’ve never ran into anyone who totally blew me away. I haven’t met anyone I want to pronounce God (bad phrasing since I’m agnostic, but you get the point right?). I haven’t met anyone who I want to become. That’s normal, right?
What I have instead is a list of characteristics I wish to acquire. When I meet someone/read about them and see that characteristic in them, I mentally make note of them for my ‘role model’ list.
It goes something like this:
I want Gandhi’s honesty, but I want Buddha’s self-awareness.
I want a model’s confidence with Mother Teresa’s dedication.
I want Elon Musk’s innovation and Steve Job’s vision.
I want Katniss’s intuition to be tempered by Scarlet O’Hara’s charisma.
I want Rainbow Rowell’s wit and Lord Byron’s eloquence.
I want my Dad’s conviction and my Mother’s sense of perfectionism.
But that’s mostly for show. Here’s the real truth
I’m not suffering from hubris or anything, but the person I most want to emulate is a better version of myself. A version of myself which has all those characteristics.
It’s like music. Your favorite song (Irresistible) is probably written by a band (Fall Out Boy) with a couple of songs you really like (Uma Thurman, Thnks fr th Mmrs, Phoenix, Sugar We’re Going Down), ones you are ambivalent to (Immortals and Alone Together) and ones you dislike (A Little Less 16 Candles, A Little more Touch Me and Rat-a-Tat-Tat). If you were making a playlist, you wouldn’t include the songs you don’t care about or dislike.
Consider yourself a playlist. Sure, Vincent Van Gogh was a creative genius who painted straight from the heart, but he was an alcoholic who heard voices in his head (apparently that’s why he cut off one of his ears). Steve Jobs was a visionary with an eye for product design and marketing- but supposedly, he didn’t have great people skills. Hitler…well, the less said about him the better, but he figured out what the people wanted and got a whole country of smart but desperate people hanging on to his every word. Disgusting, but that’s charisma and a deep understanding of psychology for you (or at least a lot of luck and good publicists).
To quote Lemony Snicket:
“People aren’t either wicked or noble. They’re like chef’s salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict.”
I have enough bad and wicked in me to avoid adding any more to the mix, but there’s always a little room for good. Throw the bathwater out, without throwing the baby. Pick out the chocolate chips from the trail mix. Whichever analogy you use, the concept is simple: Absorb the good and ignore the rest.
I’m not asking you to give up your role models (I would be a hypocrite if I did that), but I would like you to consider what kind of person you want to be. For the people who don’t have a role model yet, feel free to borrow my idea.
If everyone was who they wanted to be, the world would be a happier and more honourable place.