Why do we worship celebrity status so much? What do we expect from our idols?
Do they help us navigate our lives or do they create expectations for all of us that none of us can successfully manage or ever achieve? These are just some of the questions that I have asked myself over the past several years particularly since the emergence of the “American Idol”. Honestly, this idolization has been around since television broadcasts became possible.
I hate to throw Justin Bieber in the mix but, you know what I mean. I started to name the celebrities that stick out in my mind but, I think you get the idea. Many of these idols have very short lived careers and often experience very harsh lives. The problem that I see with this idolization of another human being, is the fact that for many kids (and adults), one of the reasons they are playing hockey might be because they have a dream of being in the NHL. Perhaps they are pursuing music because they believe they might be rich or famous some day. I would like to contend that these can be disappointing pursuits……and here is why.
I taught in the public system for a long time and met hundreds of kids and parents. I met boys who missed all kinds of school because of hockey and all kinds of girls who were sick of standing around in hockey arenas watching their brother! None of them are in the NHL. Met some kids who were so stressed by their skating or dance competitions that they never skated as adults.
I also pursued competitive swimming as a teenager and have known adults that competed in high levels of sport including gymnastics and skating. All of these are noble endeavours. The training that you learn at such a young age is irreplaceable really because you are young enough to focus on that schedule only, without the interference of domestic and work responsibility. So, to be clear: I think competition is awesome. I think learning a skill to a high level of ability is wonderful. And that is where my hypothesis begins, rooted in a deep belief that practising and working hard to achieve a high level of ability is a valuable endeavour as long as you keep your dreams in perspective. When we were kids my parents watched the Olympics and would say, “You should be there.” My brother and I were both great swimmers and we actually believed this was possible.
Being an Olympic Athlete takes a lot more than ability. You must have very dedicated coaches and a lot of money. Not to mention a parent at your disposal who will drive you to practises and sit on the sidelines for countless hours! If you are playing hockey, there is a lot of equipment necessary that can be very expensive. If you are in a band you need a decent vehicle to get you to gigs and the whole thing can be very expensive. Good for you if you have experienced any of this! I take my hat off, believe me. What I don’t like to see are kids playing hockey simply because they are chasing the NHL. There are so many more important reasons to be on the ice. There are so many more important reasons to be in the pool, on the stage, on the gymnast mats, uneven bars, playing piano, trampoline, snowboard, in front of your easel, writing behind your computer screen……….You should be doing these things because you love it. If you really love your painting easel and you love being creative I can guarantee you – it will be fun. If you love your guitar – same thing. Not only that but, as you get older you have a hobby! As you get older you may play hockey or baseball into your 60’s!! How amazing is that. I am way more interested in seeing kids and adults, doing all sorts of things with no goal in mind other than the one that tells them, “Wow, I am getting really good at this and I feel high on life.”
I have several people in my life who do just this ~ they explore all the possibilities ~ walk around with a banjo in their arms from early in the morning, go to the gym regularly because they learned the habit a long time ago, playing piano because she can, love painting because it makes them feel good, play ball because they know all their team mates and it’s a blast, ride a horse still because they did it as a kid, love writing books because it’s what they do! The list of possibilities is endless ~ and yes, perhaps some folks get rich and famous. But please let’s not make this our main aim. If it happens you are usually in the right place at the right time or it’s just plain lucky so thank your lucky stars it didn’t happen to you! Last time I checked celebrity status carries a lot of responsibility, vexation and very little anonymity. This status puts a lot of pressure on a human being and can make life very difficult. So enjoy your pursuits and follow your dreams ~ just stay in touch with reality.