How I Spell Role Model

by Sherry Hashimoto

Wherever you are - in a classroom, church, or just plain society - you often are asked "who is your role model." I never have had a good answer. All my classmates did though - there were responses ranging from "God" to "Russell Wong." Each time I am asked whom I admire most, I would usually name someone at the spur of the moment, such as my mother, father or grandparents - ordinary people who, by any definition, were simply my elders. After all, I couldn't honestly say "God" because I am a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist. I do not see Russell Wong (no offense) as anything more than a fine Asian actor, because I don't know his real self.

I pondered many important people within my life and society. I found it especially hard to name a particular role model because I always focused on finding an Asian role model, and Japanese in particular, as I wanted to be more culturally aware. I wasn't interested in a passé role model but a vital one whom I could "hobnob" with. A whole range of possibilities passed ran through my head.

What about my parents or grand parents? I guess being a typical adolescent, only makes it more difficult to appreciate their hard work. What about church people? Well, being a teenager there too, I only find myself to be acquainted with other Jr. YBA (Buddhist youth group) members. As far as politicians go, I don't know enough of them to respect and admire. Then I realized that all these people whom I'd revered for years had too many flaws. Soon enough though, I found someone to label a role model.

She has a very appropriate Japanese middle name - Maiko (our family calls her Mai-chan) which means "true heart." She lives up to this name. She constitutes my pride. I, on the other hand, have the Japanese name Kokoro , meaning heart, and find myself having to vie to live up to this name.

Who is it? Figure this. This person has been in my life for over eleven years. Not until recently did Mai-chan's importance dawn upon me. She is not interested in the problems that encompass society. They don't bother her. Nor does peer pressure or the qualms of others. Sometimes when I watch her, I can't stand how nothing seems to get in her way. If something does, she will just try and try again until she gets whatever she is doing right.

If Mai-chan picks up a new activity, she can do it perfectly the first time. For example, the first time we went ice skating togeher, she was around four years old and I was near ten. With me stumbling like a fool and her as graceful as a four year old could be, I nearly died of intimidation. That is not the worst of it.

Once, Mai-chan wanted to be in the school talent show, so she asked me for some music. I gave her Montel Jordan's This is How We Do It so she could do a hip-hop, street dancing routine. She'd never hip-hop danced but the next day she had a routine and even knew all the words to the song. It amazed me because it took me a long time to even find the beat when I wanted to dance at her age.

This young lady can always find a way to cheer me up when I am down. She draws me little get well cards and slips them through my bedroom door. On the contrary, when I am fine, she amuses herself by finding ways to be obnoxious, but I find it witty. If she is scolded, she simply says, "yes" or "sorry" and never talks back - something I always find myself doing. Her friends look up to her as well. I wonder what it would be like to be her friend.

Mai-chan excels at jazz dancing, ballet, gymnastics and at playing both the piano and clarinet. I took ballet and gymnastics, too, but as embarrasssing as it is, I always was the runt in the class who cried and did not even try. So why could I never be like her? Especially when we are blood -related. I suppose that is proof that blood relation does not necessarily mean a common identity. An individual is an individual. After all, opposites do attract, don't they?

Mai-chan is my role model because she makes an identity for herself. She will not let anyone tell her that she has to present herself a certain way. I admire that quality in her. She always takes the initiative and gets business done properly and on time. Time is limited and crucial to her so she manages herself as well as she can.

In short, she may not be flawless, but Mai-chan is well-respected by me. William Wordsworth once wrote in a sonnet, "The world is too much within us." He meant that people are too attached to the trivial things of the world and are not aware of nature as a whole. However, Mai-chan has always been the opposite. Perhaps because she is at an age where the world's problems are of no relevance.

Soon she will be entering junior high and simultanously elevating to another step toward the real world. Eventually Mai-chan will become less innocent and more worldly. I know that her perfection will diminish with age just as mine did. But with her intelligence and humor, she will flourish to be a noble human being.

Everyone who picks a role model admires someone who is their senior and has many accomplishments. Yet I seem to stand alone to choose someone who is my junior. Perhaps it is because I would rather admire veracity, integrity and humility than a person with renown.Thus to me, younger is better. People always say that they felt they were better people when they were younger, so why not look to a younger person to be a role model. If you yearn to be the way you were when you were innocent yet wise, then why not look to a person who is still exactly that? I do.

Who is Mai-chan? My role model is my eleven year old sister, Starla - my best friend. I hope that I can serve as a just role model to her as well as she has to me.

The way I spell role model is: S-T-A-R-L-A.

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