Now that my Role Models are Gone
My role models all died within the last few years. This might be the destiny of someone turning 40 fairly soon… To realize that life is not forever and that everyone is faced with the unavoidable consequence: death. Since I was very young I always dreamed about becoming famous or leaving footprints for the people after me to see. I wanted to make a difference in this world, to help others, to invent something great, or just say something extremely clever. I wanted to be quoted and recited. I always wanted to be a writer. But I never really had the courage to do just that. I hid behind good grades in school and college, I hid behind the busy-ness of a job, and I hid behind myself and the other things I was doing. And then I had this excuse when I moved from Germany to the US of losing my language and … “no way will I be able to write in English”.
Now that my role models are gone, I feel it is time to actually act. It is time to become someone else’s role model and not just a person that was too scared to follow a dream.
I love Doris Lessing’s writing about Africa. Her childhood stories and her descriptions of home. She had an inexplicit ability to descibe home as a place that is not tied to a location, but to a feeling. Home needs to say “welcome” every time you get there. When Doris Lessing died last fall, it was the first time I actually accepted that my home is no longer Radbruch in Germany, but that my new home is where I live now. I looked upon the last ten years of my life and realized that I have a great job, good friends, and a family here. I am not on a temporary assignment or in a limbo position. I am home.
I always admired Nelson Mandela. Maybe I feel so close to his calling because I lived in South Africa, maybe I just heard so many positive things about him when I grew up. I admired his courage to do what was right for South Africa. I admired that he never compromised his ideals and values, and that he stood up against opponents utilizing intellect and wit. When he died last fall I felt it was my time to be couragous. There was more to improve in this world. Opportunities to help and progress and to design the living space in accordance with your ideals. That there is always an opportunity to speak up and take a stand. I will take a stand.
Lou Reed wrote one of my favorite songs “Small Town”. It is the perfect description of my childhood and how I always felt like I needed to leave. When he died last fall, I recalled myself the last time I was brushing teeth next to my brother in my parent’s bathroom. The last day of highschool and me moving to a different town that fall. Jefferson Starship was playing “We Built This City” and Kai and I were somewhat dancing in front of the sinks. Lou Reed was able to get the feeling into this un-song “Small Town” perfectly. And all I was thinking that morning was “I am gettig out of here”. And that is a promise to myself: never be too scared to leave things behind.
December 15th, 2011 was a very sad day in my life. I drank three glasses of wine that night when Christopher Hitchens died. I discovered him two years earlier when I read the book “God… is not great”. And I was so impressed with his writing style, the words he used, the intellect, and general way he structured his thoughts. Since then I read a lot more books and articles he wrote. And I watched him appear on shows and my admiration has increased ever since. He taught me that dogmas are dangerous and that we need think in every situation. There is just no excuse not to think. He taught me that every truth we assume we know should force us to pause and re-think. After all it is those long standing truths that hold us back in innovation and progress. He also taught me that it is ok to come to different conclusions than others, he taught me that it is absolutely a duty and a responsibility in a sociecty to be a contrarian when necessary. I learned that going with the flow is not a virtue. He essentially made me believe in intelligence and intellect again. And that I truly need to use mine in this world.
I do not agree with Christopher Hitchens on everything (he was not a feminist), but that is ok. I am my own person after all. And he put it pretty well: it is not about what we think, but how we think.
Now that my role models are gone I am somewhat on my own. I might find new ones. I might not. The key is that the lessons learned will remain with me. And that I finally have to actively pursue my goals.