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Parini: Role Models

When I was a little kid in elementary school, I wanted to be a Power Ranger. I even convinced my best-friend Caetano that I was one, explaining to him that the reason I missed so much school was because I was too busy fighting crime, even though the reality was I just hated school and pretended to be sick.

Then I had a phase where I actually believed I was Cordell from Walker Texas Ranger, and wore a jean jacket with a badge on it, as well as a cowboy hat.

To be honest, I can't count the fictional characters I've emulated in real-life. I'm still doing it today. Every morning when my parents come down to the kitchen, I'll be there to shake their hands as Don Draper from the series Mad Men, and then explain to them what people really want - since I know so much about advertising.

All of these characters have attributes that have left a big impression on me. I've spent time studying the things that make them stand out. I have this idea that if I can imitate them, perhaps whatever works in their favor might work in mine. For instance: Don Draper always knows what he wants, and he seems to get it through his natural allure and charm. My mom habitually reminds me that being myself is better than being a flawed fictional character, and will list off my own valuable traits, the ones that Don Draper lacks.

Yet trying on different personas has helped me discover who I want to be as a person.

It seems that a lot of kids envision themselves as somebody they want to become when they're older. That's the point about role models. Still - and I know this may sound hypocritical given my obsession with playing characters - I don't understand why so many young people worship celebrities. Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber have millions of teenage disciples, and this is worrisome because from what I gather, they appear to instill the wrong values in kids, sending off the message that extreme wealth and fame is the key to a joyous life. You know there¹s a problem when our culture focuses on a pop star that visits the home of Anne Frank and writes in the guest book: "Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a Belieber."

All in all, it's good having someone to look up to and learn from, but we also have to be careful about who we admire.

Understanding that you yourself are a unique individual is also vital. When I head off to college at UVM in the fall, leaving Middlebury Union High School behind, I'm sure that when making new friends I'll use the same social tools as my fictional idols do, because they work. However, that doesn't mean I'll hide my own distinctive self. The truth is, I will never be one of those characters I so much admire. I'll always be me, Don Draper - I mean Leo.

Leo Parini is currently a student at Middlebury Union High School. He will attend UVM this fall, where he plans to study film and media.
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