Note: Not condoning the movie Role Models… just a good pic.
I think we forget how necessary role models are in our lives, especially in our development. I’m not talking necessarily about family, but role model figures outside of the family. A person that could be an older sibling but not a parent. Someone that’s wiser, freer, and more virtuous. Yet, the distance is not too great. They are close enough for you to say, “That could be me”. These role models are necessary. Absolutely in high school, but I think even more so in the short period between ages 18 to 22. We automatically label this period as the “college years,” however, I want to look at this period as the time in our lives when adulthood is on the horizon. Who we want to be, what we want to do. These concerns were somewhat serious in high school, but their magnitude grows exponentially during these years of emerging adulthood.
I only want to slightly speak about one major element featured in this stage of development: identity exploration. Psychologically this is the time in which the individual honestly attempts to figure themselves out. Or at least starts to. In brief, we are faced with this question: who are we? Obviously any human crumbles underneath the existential weight of such a question, then subsequently answers it by attaching their identity to something or someone outside of themselves (ie: job, money, significant other etc). However, maybe the question of identity is posed in the wrong way. Maybe it should be: who do we want to be? Now this seems like a question for a kindergarten class, in which the answers would be a princess or a superhero. However, I think this is the correct question for this developmental stage in life. This question is a lot less daunting and it points to the necessity of healthy role models.
Humans gain knowledge through sensory experience. We see, hear, touch, taste, smell. Then we learn from all the information these senses gather. In a way, we don’t truly know something until we experience it. Until we encounter it. This is why significant role models are necessary. Because we don’t know who we want to be until we encounter that person. When we are either passively or actively trying to figure out and step into our identity during this time period, it helps immensely if we have a role model. Someone we can see and watch and interact with. Someone we can have a relationship with. Someone who is similar enough, but calls us onward. A person that we are compatible with and connect with through interests, ideas, backgrounds, etc. A person that we can hang out with but also learn from. A mentor, but a friend first.
A role model is just an individual that is better at being a human being than our current selves. That is one of the reasons we are naturally attracted to them. We want to be good humans. No one wants to be a bad human. This is why we need to remember how important role models are in our lives, specifically in our development from adolescence into adulthood. Role models reveal the human truth that we belong to each other. Unless we take this responsibility seriously, we end up like lost puppies. Not knowing who we are, because we never encountered who we want to be.