This is how hero worship turned out for my aspiring songwriter character, Ivan (nicknamed Van) in Real Life & Liars.
“For a time, Van had a poster of his hero taped on his apartment wall. Bob Dylan stared down at him every night and every morning, heavy-lidded, cigarette drooping. Then Van got drunk on whiskey one night and ripped it down, and in the blazing light of morning, through all the hangover fog, he’d noticed that the paint had faded all around where it was taped, so he’d been left with its imprint. It was like a chalk outline around the corpse of his ambition.”
Heroes can inspire, but they can also remind you how much you suck. At least, that’s what happens on a really bad day.
I can’t come up with personal heroes, I’m afraid. I’ve racked my brain all week trying to come up with one, which just goes to show that I don’t have any. Honestly, if you have a hero, do you have to think hard to drum her up?
I’ve got a snapshot of Hemingway’s office taped on my own office wall, which I talked about during our Deb Offices week recently. Is he my hero? I greatly admire his work, of course, but his drinking, not so much. Heroes are as complicated as anyone, maybe moreso.
I love Katharine Hepburn, but I think I love the idea of her. I haven’t seen enough of her movies nor studied her life enough to honestly say she’s a heroine of mine. I’m more familiar with her legacy and pop-culture construction of her as powerful, uncompromising and elegant. I would like to be all that, but maybe Katharine Hepburn is not even the best example. And why shouldn’t Mother Teresa be my hero for her selflessness, and everyone’s hero, for that matter?
No mentor leaps to mind, either. I grew up professionally in newspapers, and although newspaper people tell great war stories (especially when filled with beer), there’s no time for mentoring on deadline. Countless authors over the last five years have helped light the dark woods of publishing for me, but no one mentor stands out.
I imagine under the best of circumstances a hero can serve as a North Star of sorts, somewhere you can aim yourself when you get lost. I can definitely see the allure in that, and maybe I just haven’t found my guiding star yet.
For now though, I’m doing fine without one. I don’t want to be like anyone else. I just want to be a really good me.
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