We all grow up with role models, seeking to emulate what is best about them. To a greater or lesser extent, these aims make us the people we are as adults. While we are all definitely capable of change as adults, as we continue to grow and find new passions and role models to emulate, the process is definitely slower and less radical. To some extent, as an adult one has certain (more or less) fixed attributes, personality traits, desires, and fears. What does one do, then, when confronted with a lifestyle change that might not jive with one’s personality?
I believe that only a lack of imagination stands between a person who knows both what they are passionate about and what they desire to see changed or done in the world and linking those two in a way perfectly suited to them. When that linking inevitably does not mirror the ways in which one’s role models have set out to affect change in the world, one must confront the fact that they are only role models. Each of us is going to carve our own paths, in ways (potentially) never attempted before, and trying to mould yourself to another’s way of living and being in the world is detrimental. Nothing compares to feeling true to yourself, living out your passions in a meaningful way, and accepting that you bring unique gifts to bear on the issues that matter most to you in the world.
Gandhi would have made a poor Picasso, and Beethoven could never have done what Kant did. Further, Rashi could not have done what Heschel did, and Buber could not have accomplished what Rav Steinsaltz continues to. No matter how closely you wish to emulate your role models in the work they are doing, you will, of necessity, be forced to diverge from them and express the individuality that is already there, waiting to be given a voice.