“Even though we don’t admit it, every single one of us aspires to be like somebody, whether they live in the world today, within the bard’s lyrics, or on the pages in the Library.”― Evan Meekins
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes us the way we are. A couple years ago I was really interested in the “nurture vs nature” debate, in which some defended that our genetics have more impact than our upbringing in determining our personality while others thought the opposite.
Even if I didn’t have a definite believe (and I still do not), my mind has always gravitated towards thinking that upbringing is crucial for our development as human beings. Whatever the real answer to the “nurture vs nature” question might be, I believe that we should have hope in the impact of experiences. As a society, it can be dangerous to think that people are good or bad from birth and that, therefore, the power of education is limited and underpinned to the “essence” of each of us.
Everything that surrounds us influences our thoughts, opinions and even aspirations in life, and certain elements do so more than others. We take references from the outside world and set them as examples for our own lives. Regarding people, the individuals we somewhat involuntarily choose as role models have a deep influence in who we are. Or at least they always have had it for me.
I remember lucidly one day when I was about seven years old: I took one of my notebooks, opened it on an empty page and wrote a title at the very top “People I care about”. I don’t think I knew the words (or even the concept) role model at the time, because what followed was a list of adults I secretly admired and not a list of friends or family members who were close to me. I believe I don’t have that list anymore, but I still remember the vast majority of names that were written on it, most of them being teachers, coaches or counselors.
As I started to grow up, switched schools and sports, met new people, etc. my role models changed, but the list (even if no longer written) was never empty. And as the years went by, there was an involuntary shift in those who I chose to look up to. With adolescence, I moved away from admiring almost every adult who supervised me during any activity, whether it was school, sports or something else. I started to be more selective; I had fewer role models but I followed their steps more carefully and intensely… Maybe too intensely at times.
I was fourteen when my biggest role model let me down, which made me feel like I had been chasing a star that didn’t even exist outside my own dreams. How could I had been so stupid to believe I could become something that wasn’t even real? I was lost, heartbroken and truly disappointed, but it was only then that I really understood that those people we profoundly admire are also human. They are not perfect, they make mistakes and they let us down sometimes.
We idealize our role models as if they weren’t enough on their own already; we exalt their strengths and neglect their weaknesses and mistakes. But what a beautiful thing it is to realize and embrace the fact that the person that you look up to with your whole heart is just like you, trying to find their own path in life while looking up to someone else.
When commuting in public transport, I love looking at those unknown faces that surround me and thinking about the lives that belong to each of them. The man across the street who wheeled his suitcase through the rain. The old lady who was rude for no apparent reason at the bus shelter. The young couple in the bus who played with a little girl that was excited about the drawing she made at school that day. We all struggle, we all make mistakes, we are all humans; and still, we manage to inspire each other to be better people. If that is not being heroes, I don’t know what it is.
Picture by Joshua Earle.