Role Models…Should We Have Them?

I’ve been meaning to write this for a long time, but had trouble with finding the right words to say. I wanted to discuss it on the heels of a topic that I wrote about last year in the midst of a sports scandal at my school; that is the power behind making a choice and the positive or negative impact that could follow. Yet, I couldn’t come up with a clear answer in regards to the concept of role models. Even today, I still go back and forth about it, but I have somewhat of an idea. And while some may disagree with it, it is just an opinion. 

The common consensus is that my generation, and every generation following suit is morally going downhill.  There are political leaders vowing to make changes that will supposedly “save” America, and make claims that they’re the right person for the job. Soon after, somebody cries foul for one reason or another. Athletes, movie stars, and musicians are hailed as royalty, but then they get themselves into a jam and fall just as quickly as they rose.

And so the elders cry out, “where are the leaders? Who can give a sense of direction? Who can be a light?” Or my favorite, “what happened to the old days?”

That made me wonder, are some people really all that great as they’re proclaimed to be? That’s not to say that nobody screws up and that they shouldn’t take any responsibility for their actions. Yet, I’m beginning to believe that a lot of it has to do with the media; they harp on celebrities who supposedly have this saintly image, but one wrong move and they go straight to tearing them down.

Of course, then we’re told that it is more realistic to look up to people in our communities, such as teachers, parents, or those in service jobs. But don’t they too, have their share of stumbles? Don’t get me wrong, I love my family; but there are definitely mistakes of theirs that I certainly don’t want to repeat anytime in the future.

It’s not simply a matter of who you look up to, but how and why you look up to them. 

A couple of years ago, I had to watch a friend go through an extremely rough patch in his life. It affected me very deeply because of how close we were, and there were moments where I did take it personally. At first, I blamed myself for what he was going through. 

I looked up to him very much, especially when we were first getting to know each other. And now that I look back on it, I realize that most of the pain and anger that I had against him wasn’t due to what he was doing to me. It was because he would no longer be this person of example, this person that I held so much in high regard. In my eyes, he was perfect; but that image of perfection would vanish in the midst of what was happening at the time.

Not long ago, I wrote about people that inspired me throughout 2011. I have never discussed this before, but there were times where I was slightly intimidated by being around them. It wasn’t related to anything they did, but I had this notion that they were all put together, while I was the complete opposite. I can recall several times where I would have breakfast with a friend and in the back of my mind think, how do you do it? I struggled very much with not telling specific people about what exactly was going on in my life; A part of me wondered if they would genuinely understand, because neither of us had ever talked about that kind of stuff. 

It has taken me awhile to fully realize that while some may appear to have it all figured out, or have a lot going for them, deep down they’re still ordinary people. They have fears, needs, struggles, and pain just like the rest of us. And while that does not excuse those who know damn well that they’re doing something stupid, yet do it anyway, or those who preach one thing but live another…no one will ever be completely and utterly perfect. 

That is why I have always done my best to be both honest and authentic. While I ultimately cannot control how other people see me, I really don’t want to be put on some kind of pedestal or become the postergirl of any particular matter. 

So when it comes to influences, I’ve learned not to look at people as the epitome of anything. Rather, I look to different people for different reasons. There are those that I admire because of their work ethic, determination, and strength. For others, it’s their morals, attitude, personality, and/or overall outlook on life. 

With that being said, the lines can and often do become blurred: you cannot expect a young kid to immediately stop adoring their football hero because he got busted for drugs. On the other hand, while it is perfectly justifiable to be angry when a person royally screws up due to a bad decision, is it fair to expect them to constantly try to live out this golden image? I’d like to think that first a foremost, a person would want to live a healthy lifestyle when they have so much going for them, or they have potential to do great things. It seems like living a certain way for another’s sake would only be a way of trying to please them.

Like it or not, each and every one of us is a role model of some kind; there are those of us that live as examples of what to do, and there are those of us who live as examples of what not to do. It doesn’t matter if someone goes on live television and proclaims whether or not they’re worth emulating; people will see what they want to see. 

I know that I am recognized and admired for a variety of things; I’ve been approached by various teachers, friends, and strangers over the years who tell me what an inspiration I am. I can only hope that I emulate a positive message; perhaps not solely on morals or beliefs, but on how to work hard and never give up on what you really want in life. 

But the main reason I see myself as a role model is not because of what I do, but because I have younger siblings and cousins. While I always try to communicate with them that I’m not perfect, I want them to know that there are risks worth taking, along with risks that are definitely not worth taking. 

As much as we all want to have others that have gone before us, someone that can teach us and guide us, I do not believe that the lack of positive influences in our society means that we’re all doomed. Personally, I believe that it is a chance to learn how to become leaders in our own right, as opposed to carbon copies. 

In hindsight, the path that one person takes should not determine the path that others will take. No one forces you to do anything, whether it be good or bad. Just like a person who was raised in a church has the capability of falling, a person who was raised on drugs and alcohol has the capability of getting back up. It is about having the will to do something, regardless of how hard it may be. 

Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody screws up. But, everybody also has a choice. 

And regardless of where you come from, how you were raised, or what you’ve been through, the choice is yours.

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