The danger of idolisation.
The first time I was let down by an idol, I was thirteen years old.
The week prior one of my high school friends came bounding up to me as we were waiting outside the music room. She breathlessly told me that one of our favourite stars from a much loved Australian tv show was coming to a local nightclub for a teenage dance. And, that she was inviting me to go backstage for a meet and greet with him afterwards.
That night was a big night for me. With the exception of seeing a few AFL footballers from a great distance, this was the first time I was going to meet someone famous. Like, you know, really famous.
I put on my best outfit, smoothed my lips with some high gloss balm, and waited impatiently for the moment our small group was allowed to enter the backstage area.
And finally, there he was.
I watched as he greeted the young girls before me. One after the other, he smiled generously, asked them a question or complimented them somehow and had a photo taken with them. The butterflies in my stomach were flying around furiously.
‘Go on, Love. You’re up.’ His assistant told me as she gave me a gentle little push. I walked up to him and nervously said hello. ‘Hey, were you having fun out there?’ he asked. ‘GOOD!’ I replied, immediately realising that I had messed up, as my face turned a deep shade of red. He let out a quiet chuckle as he signed my poster, gave me a warm hug and greeted one last girl.
My friend and I lingered around until it was all finished. As he exited the door on the opposite side of the room, I heard him say ‘Ugh. Thank God that’s over with’, and his assistant giggled and nodded her head.
My heart sank. This was one of the biggest moments of my life thus far, yet it was clear in that moment that it was nothing but an obligation to tick off for him.
I wish I had of taken a lesson from that day, that perhaps things, and people, weren’t always as we would hope. Unfortunately, I instead put it down to one individual being a bit of a jerk and continued to give idols far too much credit than they were perhaps due.
The next big let down for me happened 16 years later, though this time it was very different to meeting a star from Neighbours. I had signed up to a workshop led by three industry professionals I had been following faithfully for around years.
I remember spotting them for the first time as I drove past looking for a car park. The butterflies I experienced as a thirteen year old had returned and I thought about the best way to communicate how amazing I thought they were.
The following few days were quite confusing to say the least. On one hand I got to know the people I had respected so much, they were familiar, inspirational and came across as though they really wanted to help people. I could also see, however, that there was an uncomfortable dynamic between the three of them. The workshop leader at times seemed to be bullying his colleagues and would also, at times, attempt to humiliate the workshop participants.
I watched on and tried to convince myself otherwise. There must have been something else to it, perhaps they had been touring for too long and things were getting tough?
And so, I ignored it, and the respect I had for what they did as a company, overruled the truth I could see right in front of me.
Since that day I have had many more lessons, too many to ignore. Some experiences, in fact, that affected me in a significant way. My eyes opened up and I finally understood the danger in having idols, the danger in putting anyone on a higher level to myself.
This past year has been a true indication of this, as we have seen so many idols come crashing down to earth with a giant *THUD*. To name a few, we have had Harvey Weinstein, Don Burke and Donald Trump. Heck, even our beloved Dr Huxtable, someone that my family invited into our home on a weekly basis, was nowhere near the man he portrayed himself as for so many years.
It is very clear to me now that there is a huge difference between respecting and idolising someone. I can respect what someone does, I can respect their success, but we have no idea of what’s behind someone’s image that they project to the world.
Those butterflies that would fly about in my stomach have very much gone, and won’t be back again. Instead, I will shake their hand firmly, look at them in the eye, and wait to make up my own mind through personal experience.