Having a role model, someone you aspire to be like, either at present or in future, is important. Today I will examine how my own early choices of role models affected my future life.
What happens if the role models children choose are not reasonable?
I watched Michael Jordan’s crazy skills in the 1990’s. I remember well how millions of young boys held Michael Jordan up as their role model, so much so that the phrase, “Be like Mike,” was used to to sell countless shoes, beverages, and the American dream, really.
Long before that craze, I chose my first role model. As far back as I can remember, at age 3 or 4, I knew deep down that if I was going to have a role model, one who I aspired to “Be Like,” the possibility that I could “be like” them must truly exist. If there is no hope, then having a role model is an exercise in futility. Realistically, there will only ever be one Michael Jordan. (Yes, I did have this inner monologue at age 3 or 4, and YES it was long before Michael Jordan was a household name.)
I, who do not suffer fools, chose Snow White as my childhood role model… for good reason. To “Be Like Snow White,” was possible, much more so than the next generation’s hope to “Be Like Mike.”
Snow White talked to animals and, had I been in an environment to do so, I am fairly certain I’d have been conversing with furry and feathered creatures as well… but I grew up in a concrete jungle so this one trait would not be realized until later in life. Still, we had much in common.
- She had dark hair… I had dark hair.
- She wore a red headband… I added a red head band… voilà.
- Snow White sang as she toiled away… I do that (off key).
- She was a victim of circumstances beyond her control, ie, you can’t pick your family… I didn’t pick my family!
- She befriended seven dwarfs… As a child, I was the tallest of all my friends.
Snow White’s inner strength is what helped her rise above her insignificant life… by way of a handsome prince, who rode up on a white horse, kissing her as she slept…
So I realized Snow White as role model was the equivalent of having a life plan that was contingent on winning the lottery. Forget her.
The choice of a role model, for a young adult, can determine their future. As young adults, our role models must absolutely be more realistic than the ones we had as children.
I chose a new role model… a teacher. I went to a Chicago Public High School (where the teachers were, and are, sorely underpaid) which is where I met my new role model, my Studio Art teacher.
Mr ______ was cool. He was young and hip, and he treated his students like peers. We were individuals, not a mob of hormonally challenged brats. We were responsible for our failures and our success. The choices we made either promoted or sabotaged our success. Our futures were in our own hands.
Class was fun. Life should be fun. You can choose to make life fun.
Mr ______ encouraged us to bring in cassette tapes of our favorite music, to play on his boom box during class, as we worked on our projects. (I liked the Talking Heads and the B52’s)
Mr ______ wore leather pants… well. Sigh. He did. He wore leather pants well. I admired that, I did. I’ve never seen anyone wear leather pants as well as Mr ______ did, nor do I expect I ever will… okay, maybe Lenny Kravitz.
I fantasized about hanging out with Mr ______, even though I knew, if we hit the clubs together, we’d be competing for the same potential dates. I didn’t have a fake ID, so that fantasy was neither here nor there.
Looking at what I’ve written, I realize my role models progressed from Snow White to my underpaid gay art teacher.
This begs the question- was it my delusional outlook that determined my choice of role models, or did my choice of role models make me delusional?
And how did this all work out for me, an individual who hums through life’s challenges, treats people with respect, and wears clothes that define her, be it a red headband, or… anything but leather pants?
I ended up in a job that requires me to wear a uniform.