It’s amazing when you come face-to-face with your hero. I wonder if there is anything like having that person who seems larger than life right in front of you. You can see them, feel their presence, absorb their realness. I think there is a comfortable infatuation that exists in that moment.
I know I had one that I entertained. This person was, (and still is) bigger than life. Their energy overwhelming, their capability far beyond what most people could ever conceive. Interestingly, I lived with my hero. I saw them everyday. I watched them rise the social scale in school. I stood in awe as they traveled the world, increased their awareness and education at some of the most prestigious places of learning. I saw talent ooze out of every pore. I loved them, adored them, and hated them at the same time. And, I wanted what they had. I figured that if I lived with it, I could emulate it and the world would be at my feet, just like it was for them.
Much of the time, I was tolerated. Then, I was annoying—-yes, just like any lil sister would be. Like the puppy that sleeps at my side, I followed and copied and noted all that was done. I told myself everyday, “If only” then the rest would fall into place and I would have found my niche.
Oddly enough, I did discover along the path that many of the same activities I had seen them perform, I also had the innate talent. After all, it was me up in front of a classroom debating the impacts of the social contract on American values–not them. I remember the first time I qualified for a State competition ( I was a freshman in high school). I was performing in humor and as a first year student, I nabbed a state superior. Not the most common thing to do especially since I came from small town SD and was up against seasoned big dogs. I bopped up to the front when my name was called to accept my trophy and the head of the activities association shook my hand and commented how nice it was to see someone following in their amazingly talented sibling’s footsteps. Was I ready to repeat all that success? You bet.
I never once claimed that success for myself. Instead, I told myself it was never enough, never big enough, never enough trophies on my shelf. (there is not one in my home). There are 2 moments that stand out to me and weirdly, an Adam Levine song, “Wonder” came into play this weekend.
I remember distinctly being at a major tournament my junior year, a tournament where if I did well, I could qualify for nationals. I was in top form. My hero was in attendance and we had a tradition of a “walk and talk” before pivotal rounds, this tournament was no different. Back and forth between speaking event and debate I ran….I walked into finals ready to take it. I did. I claimed top spot in my individual event. BAM!!! I recall standing in the line of other finalists, waiting for my name to be called….as soon as third place was announced, I knew I had done it (they take the 2 top spots). Second was called, it wasn’t me. I had taken first. I had arrived. I gathered the plaque and mug in my hand and through tears I looked toward the back of the lunchroom to see my hero standing there, clapping, nodding their head in approval. I had done it–I had gained the respect of the one who had alluded me. They later said to me, “I had people tell me you were good. I didn’t believe it until I saw it for myself. You are incredible—damn, you’re really good.” I basked in that–and it kills me to type that memory because tears of loss stream down my face with each word I eek out.
Exactly a year later the tables turned and I was ousted. Lyrics flood my head,
“I still don’t have the reason
And you don’t have the time
And it really makes me wonder
If I ever gave a fuck about you”
Instead the last line plays in my head: “And it really makes me wonder if you ever gave a F about me.” At the same tournament a year later, my hero looked me straight in the face, sneered, “I qualified in 2 events my senior year. Can you do that? Hell no. No, you won’t be able to do that, will you?” These words pounded my brain as I walked into another final round, in a position to repeat my win from the year before….I didn’t qualify in either event. I was damn close and I lost. I recall standing in the same line up as the previous year, with the same person in the back of the room…..instead they gloated and shot me the most condescending look I’ve ever received and gave me 2 thumbs down. I was crushed–part of me died in that moment and it will never be resurrected.
I’ve watched the actions of my hero the last few years. Watched them age, grow into themselves, fumble a bit, fight their way back to where they want to be. I’ve witnessed them in real life situations and now I shake my head. I don’t know this person–I wonder if I ever really did–if any of us did. It really makes me wonder if this is their true nature, to disregard and toss aside human lives like so much discarded trash. If this is true, did they ever give a F about me?
I have to wrestle with that. Yet, something stops me. I looked back down the lyrics list to discover,
“Give me something to believe in
Cause I don’t believe in you anymore
I wonder if it even makes a difference,
It even makes a difference to cry. So this is goodbye”
I look at their actions now, listen to speeches they make, glean from what they type–searching for that piece==that peace. I implore those typed words to give me something to believe in–cause I don’t believe in them anymore. I don’t believe in that hero anymore.
Maybe after almost 25 years estranged, admitting that I don’t believe in them anymore is the most important first step. Maybe I don’t have to give a F about them…it’s obvious they do not give a damn about me. Maybe admitting that allows me a glimpse of what walking away looks like.
I hate this. I hate looking back at those words, those sentiments seem so detached, so void of the unconditional love I advocate. I’m not sure I care today. I might tomorrow, but today, I’ve muddled through so many years locked in silent battle, trying to win the acknowledgment of someone who once held so much of my devotion. And, it kills me to realize that maybe they never deserved it in the first place.
So, what do you do when you meet your hero face-to-face and they turn out to be not only human, but a rather stinky one at that? What do you do when you discover that their apathy and my reaction to it has almost destroyed me? How do you say good bye?
Cause I can’t believe in you anymore–Cause I can’t love you anymore. And today it makes no difference to cry.