What do you care what other people think?
There is little that I can say about role models. It took me after adulthood to realize what they meant to me, which was convenient in a way. It allowed me to carefully study them, scrutinize them and, more importantly, relate to them. Having said that, I do have my fair share of celebrated cliches — Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Giordano Bruno, Carl Sagan — who, stating the obvious, I admire tremendously. Their contributions to the world as we know it today were grand, magnificent. Do I see them as role models, though? No.
One of my earliest memories as a child is going to a movie theater for the first time with my mother. I can’t recall any memories about actually watching the movie — Toy Story, by the way — instead I remember very distinctively the moments right before the screening. Sitting right next to my mom with a lunchbox on my lap, looking at the screen in awe of what was about to happen. This conscious awe of a beloved pastime (which remains so to this day) was naturally transferred to all years that followed, always deeply connected with the unknown, the uncharted, the just before. It is a very particular feeling, but it matches precisely to how I think of those I mentioned before. Getting to know their stories and their achievements little by little was, and still is, special. Does it fit to how I feel about role models? No.
The way I see it, role models are more. It’s not just a matter of admiration, but a desire, at least in part, to be inspired by their lives, and to have that reflected into who you are (or try to be). There came Richard P. Feynman. I talked about identification and relatability before and, oh boy, he hits every mark. For those who don’t know who I am talking about — shame on you! — it is no surprise he was a scientist as well — a physicist actually. Interestingly, though, his scientific achievements don’t really matter to me. His life, on the other hand, and his take on living: that’s where I see a model.
Admiration comes naturally to me. Being truly inspired by someone, though, that takes way more effort.
There is a lot of talk about being authentic and owning who you are. I believe in that 100%, but it can be difficult to truly reach that point. Feynman was always very true to his view of the world, sometimes painfully so, to the point where awkward (yet enlightening to me) situations happened by the lots. A mind of the rational, always busy thinking about how to solve problems, regardless of the subject, without disregarding them as minor or unimportant. It’s actually impressive how effortlessly he managed to be like that. At the same time, it’s not hard to picture how many misunderstandings and complications came from it. In the end, however, he stayed true to who he was. This fierceness of character is something that I relate to and aspire.
And here is a key repercussion of this fascinating mindset. Maybe as a natural consequence of his perspective regarding the world, he was a man of many skills, which were seemingly unrelated to each other. Brilliant physicist, but also a musician, painter, dancer, safecracker, and the list goes on. He never felt the need to belong to a particular group (the physicists, the artsy ones, the criminals even), and because of that he never felt constrained to pursue whatever he was interested in. I consciously embraced this feeling recently. Maybe I was fed up with my life. Maybe it was a sudden realization, who knows. “What do you care what other people think?” he said over and over. I can see now what he meant by it. I am, first and foremost, a scientist and a geek. You name it and I’ve put way too much time into it — which does not mean whatsoever that I regret spending that said amount of time. From all sorts of scientific topics to Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Tarantino, Animatrix, TV series, board games and much more. That’s me.
Having said that, I love dancing, like a lot. There’s something very liberating about moving one’s body to a beat. Salsa is pretty neat. I love working out and exercising as well, which puts me as a rather vain fellow. The list keeps going: acrobatics, classical music concerts, improv classes, art museums, food courts, etc. I long for diversity and the quirkier, the better. Bring it on. No space for shame or self-doubt anymore. I can say now you know me better. That’s closer to the real me, nice to meet you.