“Be who you thought your heroes were when you were little.” – P. N.
The things that inspire us in life greatly shape the kind of people we become. There are certain icons and celebrities, or maybe even family members, that we consider our heroes. We look up to them, use them as our standard, and idolize them. But what happens when they fail to live up to our expectations?
No one is perfect. We’re all just humans trying to make sense of this crazy thing called life. If you think someone has a plan, chances are they didn’t. If you think they’ve got their shit together, chances are they don’t. They, like us, have followed life paths that have led them to certain niches and careers that work for them. Our heroes are not like characters in a book. They are deeply complex, flawed, and yes, they even make mistakes.
Many of us, if not all of us, have looked up to specific important figures in our lives. I’m talking about our early caregivers. Sometimes this is parents. Other times it’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins. When you were little, do you remember how it felt to look at them as if they knew everything and could do no wrong?
My parents had the answers to everything when I was younger. And then I grew up and came to realize that they weren’t perfect, and didn’t know everything. As all of us do at some point in our lives, I came to realize that I couldn’t rely on them for everything. I had to become an independent person with thoughts and opinions of my own. But that didn’t change the fact that when I was younger, my parents were my heroes. All knowing, ever comforting presences.
Think of someone you find inspiring.
I don’t mean your early caregivers. I mean a person that you found all on your own whose ideals and paradigms you vehemently believe in.
Are you thinking of them?
I can think of one. Neil Gaiman. The more I read Neil Gaiman’s work, the cooler he became in my eyes. I idolized him as a wonderful author, romantic writer, and pursuer of his greatest dreams. Like a character in a movie, I didn’t know how he came to do the things he did. All I knew was that he existed in my world as an author. And I thought that was hella rad.
So like any curious fan, I began to dig into the backstory of his character. I began to flesh him out as not just an idol, but as a person. What I found was, I’ll be honest, a little disappointing. Instead of the picture I had painted in my mind of someone who passionately pursued his dreams and stuck to his creative voices, I found a human who published anything he could in order to make money.
Now don’t get me wrong. I still adore Neil Gaiman and his work. But after I read his autobiography explaining each grueling step he had to take to get to where he was, the character of the author I had in my head was shattered. Because I had thought of him a certain way all my life, seeing who he actually was ended up being disappointing. I think a lot of people do this about a lot of things in their lives. You might romanticize an abusive boyfriend or worship one of your friends who you think is way prettier, funnier, and smarter than you are. We all do it at some point.
After this disillusionment, I decided I never wanted to dig deeper into the lives of my idols ever again. I liked how I perceived them in my own mind. My heroes weren’t human. They were characters. Characters that inspired me, pushed me, and whom I set as my standard for work. It may be arguable that you cannot separate the human from the character, and that may very well be true, but the Niel Gaiman in my mind was enough of a muse to push me to start writing. Sometimes the idea of a person is all you need to inspire you.
You know they say that if you go looking for answers, you will find them. Are you sure you want to know? Are you sure you want to shatter than illusion you have of your muse? Your inspiration? Like going on the hunt for a no good father who left you when you were little, sometimes things are best left in the abstract. We can put whatever story we want to it, and it may not be true, but it may be just enough for us to become who we thought our heroes were when we were little; good people.
Who is your biggest inspiration? Have you met your heroes? Were they everything you thought they would be? Share your stories!
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