Friday, September 19, 2008

Heroes belong to stories

I never had an answer for that question.

It seemed to private, like asking about someone's religion or their sex life. It was an intrusive question that I couldn't answer to anyone.

Who is your hero?

Most kids picked historical figures or their parents. I told them no one. I didn't have anyone as my hero. Or if feeling a bit cheeky, I'd say Superman or lesser comic book heroes like Aquaman. (Now wouldn't life be a sad thing if Aquaman was your hero?)

But I did have someone I looked up to. She did the things I wanted to do and lived the life I wanted. She was a writer of young adult novels and not widely known to all. It was like she only belonged to me. My own person Jesus, if you will. I carried her beautiful books around with me at all times and I read them at every chance I got. I even met one of my best friend because of her.

On my first day of college I sat in a class room with 200 people in it, feeling exposed and alone. I pulled one of her books from my bag and disappeared for a while. Then a girl from two rows back whispered to me, "Hey!" I turned around and she held up the same book. Both our eyes lit up. We found each other.

Her books were filled with every thing I felt as a young girl. The girls in her books felt isolated and alone. They loved and hated their new bodies. They saw the things that kids my age took for granted. And they lived in worlds I wanted to be in. Faeries and magic and gritty life and the bad guys never won, not really.

Last year I found myself in LA, helping jump start an internet company of a friend of mine and I checked my email between meetings. That same college friend sent me an email that said that our favorite author was hosting a writing workshop there in LA in just a few days. I quickly wrote a check, shipped it off and waited in absolute anticipation.

One week later, I left her house feeling strange. She was just a woman. Her hand shook when she wrote and she had bits of gray in her hair. She was so thin and small. She was quiet and timid, not at all the strong, motherly type I had envisioned. She had been more beautiful than I had imagined. And her home was just how I pictured it. But in the end, she was just a woman who wrote beautiful stories. She did not hold the answers to the universe. She did not hold the the power to make me understand me.

Heroes are best left to stories. Fables and fairy tales. Because those that dwell on the surface of this planet can be no more than just what they are. Yes, they can do heroic things, extraordinary things. But the heroes we build up in our minds only live in fiction, as they should. That is way too much pressure for one person.

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