Never forget who you want to be as you grow up

As children, we are constantly asked who our role models are. First it is Superman, Batman or any number of fictional characters; however, as we grow in our understanding of the world and the connection between thoughts and emotion becomes more intricate, our concept of role models does as well. Suddenly, we have memorized the life story of some billionaire business mogul.

My role model is Bill Cunningham. When I tell this fact to friends, family or random strangers who stop long enough to listen, they are confused. He is not well-known outside the fashion circle or New Yorkers, and I only learned about him through the Netflix documentary, "Bill Cunningham New York."

Bill Cunningham is a fashion photographer. Every day, he dons a blue disposable jacket originally intended for street cleaners and travels to work on his 29th bicycle (the other 28 were stolen). He spends his day taking pictures of fashionable pedestrians, people who show a unique or current style that catches Cunningham’s eye long enough to snap a picture. Some people stop and smile to the camera, and others wave him away, scowling at the rude man with the camera. Either way, Cunningham takes the pictures to The New York Times and arranges them into a collage or video for his column, On the Street.

As I watched this documentary, I learned more about Cunningham as person rather than a photographer who had made it in New York City. I learned that he is humble, taking pictures of well-dressed people at an event created just to honor him. Interviews from people who know him cite him as selfless, rarely sharing details of his personal life. Cunningham is a man who has found his passion in life and has never sacrificed his values to do so.

We as students have different priorities, of course. While some of us may desire to become the next business mogul, others among our ranks venture to claim the Broadway stage. Although we all have different goals, we have one thing in common: the drive to succeed. This fact is evident as soon as you login to LinkedIn.

In our race to accomplish our short term goals, we have forgotten about the person we want to become. When did our professional place in society become dominant to our relationship with humanity? Our resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and entire life on campus seem to be centered on this overarching desire to succeed. The details we know about our role models are based on statistics, the amount in their bank accounts and the year they created their first startup company. I would much rather know their personality, what sparked their passions and how they interact with the world around them.

Perhaps this is a romantic ideal, but it doesn’t make the concept any less important. For this summer, students should take the time to more closely examine their own role models. Summer is an opportunity for reflection and to consider the type of person – not professional – they are currently and will be in the future.

Mary Catherine Connors is a sophomore majoring in mathematics and economics. Her column runs weekly.

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