Sometimes, I forget about my idol only to find him again. It feels weird to write it in that way. I don’t mean that I ever actually forget my idol, my mentor. It’s that I temporarily forget to think of him. Perhaps, that is a consequence of growing older.
My idol is a poet. A well-regarded, award winning poet. He teaches in his day job and loves it. And, in the mornings at around 4 or 5am, he wakes up to write poetry for an hour at his desk. He works out frequently, despite his age. And he is the most open and compassionate teacher and advisor that I have ever known.
I try to think of him often, but I sometimes forget.
I’m a bookish person. That’s true. But for a number of years, I spent my time trying to not be a bookish person. I’ve tried to be something that doesn’t feel so meek. And, of course, that was an exercise in lying to myself. It was a consequence of not being secure in who I am or what I wanted to spend my time doing.
And then I found an idol.
The poet, as I will call him here, taught me fiction in college. He went on to teach us about literature in nearly every decade, eventually finishing it all off with courses in poetry. He was the first person that I met that was actually passionate about being bookish. I guess that type of confidence seems unmistakable in professors. The good ones are acutely aware of themselves and, somehow, they come to terms with it and embrace it.
It’s part of the reason why I see college as a formative place. With the right professors, you can always find the confidence that you lacked.
So, I found who I wanted to be in him and latched onto the poor man.
I do that from time to time. Latch onto people who I see as idols. I don’t know why. It’s something that I’ve always done. If I pulled away the layers, I’d probably find a need for emotional affirmation.
But idols are also a good thing. They remind of what we want to be. They represent the goal that we are striving toward. It’s important to have them because they can remind us of what we sometimes forget.
But we can’t only tie these people to our goals. Do I want to win awards? Sure. Do I want to be a well-published writer with some respect tied to my work? Yes.
However, I also want to be a person that inspires and cares for others. That doesn’t come for my work.
The people that I latch onto have always been champions for others. They’ve deliberately pushed others before themselves and, in doing so, have represented a selflessness that I sometimes forget.
We’re not supposed to forget that. We’re really not.
It might be a consequence of our environment. As capitalists and as Americans we are taught the importance of the “self.” The “self” has value and is important, but we must also and often think of others. Our mentors, friends, lover, and family. It’s important to remember that selflessness allows a more fulsome cultivation of the “self.”
I remembered my idol and mentor today, because I have been thinking of myself often. My writing, my career, my time, and my life. Sometimes, I forget the people that were so instrumental in shaping a cocky kid into a responsible, reasonable person.
It’s important to remember every person who has lifted you up when you were down. Pay homage to them. Thank them. Especially, now. We have the time. We’re stuck in our homes.
If you can, reach out and thank your idols and the people that have helped you. It’s important.