My mom is my biggest hero. I know this is not a particularly original sentiment, but I really don’t think that heroics always necessitates originality. If anything, being a hero has a lot to do with repetition; consistently doing and perfecting the things that others find exceptional about the person and the work. With this in mind, I can count two people that I would describe as a hero (besides my mom, of course). The first being Linus, of Peanuts fame and the second being writer-director Cameron Crowe.
The reasons I consider Linus and Cameron Crowe such strong influences in my life vary from the personal to the professional. I am fond of Linus for his deep musings about the human condition. Also, as an avid adolescent thumb-sucker myself, I was attracted to his refusal to adhere to social pressures by rejecting the absurd suggestion that he should give up his blanket and thumb-sucking. I look up to Crowe because I find that his work, both in journalism and film, is incredibly motivating. He is the type of filmmaker who can make a big movie seem intimate, and is easily one of the most quotable screenwriters. (“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone when you’re uncool.” I mean, come on Crowe. Leave some for the rest of us!)
I never had any drive to meet my heroes. My feeling was that I was happy in my own ignorance, letting my heroes be exactly what I wanted them to be. After Crowe got to meet his own hero, director Billy Wilder (for the book Conversation with Wilder), he wrote,“Heroes usually belong at an arm’s length.”
When you have a personal hero, you run the major risk of there being a disconnect between the persona that you have forged through your admiration, and the actual person. There is the inference and then there is the reality.
Nope. I never really wanted to meet my hero, until I got the opportunity.
For my birthday, my best friend had bought me tickets to see Lisa Robinson in conversation with Crowe. Robinson was promoting her book There Goes Gravity (Amazing book—10/10 would read again.) and Crowe, having worked as a music journalist alongside Robinson, was going to facilitate a discussion and then a Q&A.
At the end of the Q&A, I got up to leave but my friend stopped me. She pointed in Crowe’s direction and told me to wait in the line that had formed in front of the director. She said something about how this would be like my only chance to ever meet this guy, how I talk about his stuff too much not to do it and how I had left the dishes in the sink again (which had less to do with Crowe and more to do with my household responsibilities).
I got in line and, as I stood there, I realized that I was curious. I was really curious. If I were of the feline variety, at this point, death would have been inevitable. Then, when I neared the front, this curiosity gave way to nerves. Anticipation and expectations were colliding together in my brain, pushing up against the back of my forehead. I could leave. He was still just about an arms length away.
Now, the poetic end to this little anecdote would be that I turned around and let him remain strictly a figment of my conscious mind. But, apart from Seuss, I have never been one for poetics.
So I met him. I shook his hand. We talked about something-or-other. He signed a something-or-other. It was all perfectly ordinary. Then I cried.
It wasn’t like an “I’m watching the beginning of Up” type of cry, it was more like “I’m watching the end of Forrest Gump” type of cry. No face-contortion, no loss of breath, just misty eyes and a voice-over narration by Tom Hanks. I am not sure exactly why I cried. It juts felt like the right thing to do, like the expected progression. Also I didn’t cry in front of Crowe, I feel like this is important to note.
When we think of heroes, it is hard not to get personal, to have some strange sense of ownership because these people or cartoons or dogs or whatever have done so much to influence the person that you are and the person you hope, one day, to become. It’s a lot of built-up pressure, especially when you meet that person in the flesh.
There is not one social-media-driven day that goes by without a quote, muttered by someone of note that has been plastered onto a pastel background with a decorative border, popping up on a newsfeed of some sort. This type of daily bombardment only adds fodder to our heroic interpretations that may never be wholly accurate.
But we admire theses individuals and look up to them, so it is natural to search for anything, everything we can to understand them a little bit more. But, somewhere along the way, it becomes harder and harder to separate the person from the projection. And if we ever meet this individual and they do not live up to our unrealistic expectation we feel a pang of disappointment. It’s only natural.
Our heroes are our heroes for a reason: we respect something about them. Now we just need to identify what that something is and make it our own.