As we walk through life, we never want to look around and find ourselves alone, or in a place that has not been travelled. We feel a sense of reassurance when we know that someone older than us has walked this very path. We feel that we must be doing something right. We look up to these people, we call them our heroes. In the most common cases, we look up to our parents, a coach, or a teacher. They’ve done something for us, they’ve helped us in our time of need, and we’ve never seen a single thing they’ve done wrong. They couldn’t do wrong in our eyes. We tell ourselves that no one is perfect, but we always think of that perfect person in our life. We idolize humans, we idolize people just like us.
In 2011, The Wonder Years released a song called “Hoodie Weather” with the lyric “Growing up means watching my heroes turn human in front of me.” As we grow up, we have these figures in our lives who we put on pedestals. We take every aspect of their life and make it our own. We want to be looked at the way they are, to be seen the way they are. Sometimes people find themselves asking what their idols would do rather than what they would do. When we think of our role models we think of guides. Someone who’s done it all before and has left distinct footsteps to follow in. We see this paved path ahead of us, thinking these footprints go beyond our sight, beyond the curve. But when we do this we forget to look down at our own feet. We find ourselves in sand instead of cement, and everything written in sand is bound to be blown away. So what do we do when they vanish? We’re lost. We forgot to bring our compass or our maps because we were so set on where we were going, that the path almost didn’t seem real. But maybe it was never ours to follow. It’s in these moments where we gain perspective. Where everyone is back to human. Where our heroes turn human in front of us. The truth is, they’re just as lost as we are. It’s easy to see someone’s highlights and compare it to our behind the scenes. We know our struggles, what we would change when we look into the mirror. We know our imperfections, where we fall short in certain aspects. We look at the people we’re idolizing and we list their accomplishments. We see everything they did right, and we hold ourselves to that same standard. With life comes failure, and when we see the people we hold to such a high standard fail we don’t know what to do. The footprints disappear. Not only do we gain perspective in these situations, but we also gain perspective when we take them out of their perfect environment. Your hero can run a four minute mile on a blacktop, but if you put them in a baseball game are you still going to see the same person? We see them as another one of the members of the team because in this light, they’re missing their cape. So as we grow up, we gain more kryptonite and we’re less likely to see Superman saving the day. We see him as Clark Kent. Everyone, in that aspect, is human. As John Green once wrote, “What a treacherous thing to believe a person is more than a person.”
Pedestals are a dangerous thing. They’re so high up, that no one could possibly fall. We as humans, radiate toward attachment. We are attached to objects we couldn’t live without, people we couldn’t live without. We attach to ideas, we attach to the idea of someone. We are attached to who we think they are, instead of who they actually are. In reality, it should be taken as a compliment to be thought of so highly in someone else’s mind. Some people are afraid of heights. So this is to you, who believes in fairytales and happy endings, and has dreamt about being Lois Lane. Your teacher and your coach are underpaid, under appreciated, and some days it’s hard to get out of bed. Your friend, she’s going to graduate. She has failed more times than she’d care to admit. She wants you to know that she isn’t perfect. Your parents want you to know the same along with every John Doe you have ever put on a pedestal. It doesn’t have to be lonely at the top. Humans aren’t anything less of wondrous. We’re all lost souls swimming in a fish bowl year after year as Pink Floyd would sing. We all have souls and needs. We need love, we have wants and desires and the overwhelming fear of letting someone down. They deserve to be loved, but they don’t deserve to be idolized. Your heroes are human.