Commentators described Matthew McConaughey’s 2014 Best Actor Oscars speech as “confounding,” “bizarre,” and “very Matthew McConaughey.” I take umbrage at the first two accusations.
“Now when I was 15 years old, I had a very important person in my life come to me and say ‘who’s your hero?’ … I said … ‘You know who it is? It’s me in 10 years.’ So I turned 25. Ten years later, that same person comes to me and says, ‘So, are you a hero?’ And I was like, ‘not even close. No, no, no.’ She said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘Because my hero’s me at 35.’ So you see every day, every week, every month, and every year of my life, my hero’s always 10 years away. I’m never gonna be my hero … I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me … to keep on chasing.”
Our future selves are Titanesque heroes. It’s like they’re not even us.
We see ourselves as having infinite opportunities. 10 years? That’s all the time in the world to become a hero! And thinking we have all the time in the world is a fantastic motivator to wax philosophical about becoming colossal, and it’s an optimistic way of looking at life, but it’s not true. Life is finite, and we can only do so much in the time we are given. We don’t actually sit down and consider the discrete steps we must take every year, month, and day to become this fabled hero. So we dream, because dreaming is more indulgent than doing. And that means, in 10 years’ time, we still won’t be Titans.
Or we can try. We can take small steps.
It helps me to think about my past self, since I’ve already walked the path that led from him to me. It’s clearer than my future path, even if obscured by false memories and riddled with gaps. Would 14-year-old Tom look up to me? In some ways, yes. I’m a writer in NYC. 14-year-old Tom would think that was pretty cool. But realism also tempers my assessment. He would be disappointed by some things. Present Tom hasn’t published a book. Present Tom is still not good at sports. Present Tom is not a leader among men. I was only able to accomplish so much in ten years.
You will never be that perfect hero. No one ever has been. Accept that, but continue to strive for stellar results. The thrill of the chase is great, but actually adopting even just a fraction of the aspects of the hero you’ve always dreamed of is even greater.
My journey to becoming a hero starts with small steps. One day, I want to publish a novel. That means that, today, I must write. One day I want to own an apartment in NYC. That means that, today, I must work hard. One day I want to be a hero. That means that, today, I must better myself.