Whenever I am asked who my favorite movie star is I can never come up with an answer. I simply don’t have one. The same goes for my favorite sports team or athlete. I don’t have either. And I don’t care. I’ve never really given this much thought until recently. I have never had an idol or looked up to someone as a role model. And I don’t know why. My friends and others I have met seem more concerned with this phenomenon than me.
I had a normal childhood, as far as I can remember. I had severe asthma and allergies growing up, but other than that, I guess I was like any other kid. I played baseball and football with my neighborhood friends and even had a favorite baseball team, the Brooklyn Dodgers. Yes, I was a child that long ago. I didn’t have a favorite player though. I loved going to the movies on Saturday afternoons to watch cowboy movies and war movies, but I never had a favorite actor. At that time John Wayne was everybody’s favorite, but not mine. On the contrary, I hated him. I thought he was a bully and a bigot (before I knew the meaning of bigot). I was always interested in Native Americans, or as we used to call them, Indians. John Wayne, in his movies, always killed Indians and I hated him for that.
I grew up listening to rock and roll, the music of the fifties and sixties, just like every other teenager in the world, but I never had a favorite singer. I actually didn’t care for Elvis Presley, but I tolerated him. I cared more for the words or the meanings of songs rather than who sang them. I did, however, have a favorite group, Simon and Garfunkle. I loved what their songs were saying and I felt as though I could relate to their music. I liked music that made me feel good and the faster the beat, the better.
What I enjoyed reading in my early life also reflected how I felt about heroes and role models. I read comic books like any other kid, but I read the funny ones, like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, not superheroes, like Superman or Batman. I like funny cartoons, not superhero cartoons. I went to Catholic schools through high school, where the nuns pushed books about the lives of the saints and other religious topics. I found these books and their subjects to be absolutely boring and of no interest to me. I preferred to read books on history, dinosaurs, horror, and science. I found non-fiction, except scary stories, to be way more interesting than fiction, even to this day. This preference even extends to the movies I watch.
I had always gotten good grades in school and I always tried my best, basically because I would get punished if I did poorly. I didn’t have a favorite teacher and I didn’t strive to emulate any famous scholar. I did notice that in my high school athletes were fawned over and given all of the attention and perks, while everyone else was ignored. I never could understand why athletics was more important than academics. I respected athletes and gave them credit for what they had accomplished, but I didn’t idolize them.
When I attended college I didn’t have a particular person, in whose footsteps I wanted to follow. I had varied interests and it was difficult for me to chose an area of study to call my major. Because of this, I have had careers in both psychology and cytology, two unrelated areas of study. Studying these areas of concentration I had no role models to emulate, nor did I want one. I was determined to pave my own path in both of those fields.
I was employed the longest as a cytologist, before retiring. I worked with some very competent and capable professionals in my field, whom I deeply respected, but I never wanted to be like them. I strived to do my best, not to be like anyone else. As a professionally employed adult, I often thought back to my high school days, when I observed athletes being given all of the accolades and scholars receiving none. I saw the same thing happening in real life, and it upset me. I couldn’t understand why some athletes made millions of dollars playing a game, while people who worked to save lives and help people made only a small fraction of those millions. No one ever paid to watch a skilled surgeon or scientist work, I often thought. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I’ve never had an idol.
I think perhaps the closest I ever came to having an idol or role model was in politics. I can remember working for John F. Kennedy’s campaign for president, even though I was too young to vote. I admired and respected him for how he worked for others, especially the poor and less fortunate. When he was President I felt as though young people had hope for our futures. I felt as though our entire country had hope. When he was assassinated I felt an immediate sense of loss, not only for myself but for our country. I don’t think I ever recovered from that fateful event. There certainly aren’t any politicians today that I can look up to!
Now that I am 71 years old and realize that I have never had any idols or role models that I have looked up to, I wonder why. I see young people idolizing athletes and pop stars. I even see people my age holding football and basketball players in awe for their abilities, while I take them for granted. I see people wearing sweatshirts and tee-shirts emblazoned with the names of their favorite player or team, while I go out of my way to choose articles of clothing without advertising the names of athletes, sports teams or even sportswear companies. The reason I do this is a mystery to me, but I don’t let it bother me. Maybe I’m just weird. Perhaps now is the time to find an idol to emulate. Perhaps it should be Methuselah! What do you think?