This past fall, I was blessed with the most beautiful bundle of joy. No, I didn’t have a baby, but something along those lines. I took my sorority little sister and found myself in a situation I’d never been in before. As the youngest of three children in my immediate family and even the youngest of all my cousins, I never had anyone looking up to me and following my example. So when I popped out of that box at reveal and wrapped my arms tight around her, I didn’t really know what I was in for.
For the first time in my life I had this girl looking at me like I had all the answers (or at least, I felt like she was) and I certainly didn’t have all the answers. Fall was a rough semester for me, ranging from break ups to family drama; I didn’t feel like I was the perfect example to my little that I wanted to be. I made mistakes and was emotionally torn in both who I wanted to be and what I wanted from my relationships with others. You were just figuring out who you are, you might be saying. I realize that in hindsight, but at the time I felt that I was blundering around making a fool of myself. I finally found myself apologizing to my little sister that I wasn’t the best example and that I was working on becoming a better person when she said something to me that struck me:
“Big, I don’t love you or look up to you because you’re perfect. I look up to you because whenever life throws a curve ball your way, you rise above it gracefully and move on.”
My little’s wisdom astounded me. She was right. Everybody makes mistakes, its how you respond and recover from them that make you someone worthy to look up to.
We often find ourselves admiring someone who has accomplished a lot in their lives, are good to other people, do a lot of community service work, etc., and while all of that is important, how often do we admire someone for the way they handle their mistakes? An ideal role model isn’t someone who is perfect because — most likely — you aren’t perfect. I know I’m not. So what do you do when you make a mistake and have no guide on how to recover or patch things up? I’m thankful that the role models in my life not only make mistakes, but make a lot of them, so that I can learn from their example of how to pick myself up again.
So if you find your role model “not being the best example,” or you don’t encapsulate all your values on a particular day that people are looking up to you, don’t sweat it. Laugh it off, apologize if necessary, do whatever the situation calls for, and take the time to thank your role models for not being perfect.
P.S., I would’ve included my chapter affiliation and a picture of my beautiful little here, but I’ll be a recruitment counselor this coming year and can’t blow my cover!