It was seventh grade, and in class we were talking about talented, famous and influential people who changed and shaped the world we live in. I don’t remember specifically who we were discussing at the time, but I’m sure for one thing that he was a great scientist born into a poor family; his life was full of anecdotes about how he survived everyday obstacles, and how he thrived from that low-profile upbringing to become one of the most important people in human history. Then the girl next to me joked “Aw, all of them were so poor. Then I’m sure I will never be so great a figure. My family is not poor at all.”
Since then I have been obsessed with the idea that if someone is famous and successful, there must be something about his childhood, or some twist that happened on the way he grew into that person. Just randomly pick someone that everyone puts on the altar, and we could easily point out a dark side that has made the person so appealing to us. I’d say, Steve Jobs. Everyone is so familiar with the three stories he told in his commencement speech at Stanford (including the one he dropped out of college and started it all, the one he got fired from the empire he built up and then made an even more spectacular comeback, and the one where he faced death), which no doubt must have wetted many eyes and inspired thousands (if not millions) of young people to throw themselves into the winds, chasing passions and dreams. We love (or hate) Steve for the new world of iFeelTheWorldAtMyFinger he brought us into, but we are even more drawn to him as a person, because we feel like we know him. We reckon behind that invincibly creative mind, there’s a naked soul that had been shaken up so many times over the course of his life. He wasn’t perfect, like any of us. Yet his flaws and mundane nature just make everything he did even more extraordinary.
Maybe that’s why we often root for bad guys in movies or books. Bad guys have brains, motives and all the reasons to be interesting. The good guy, on the other hand, is often described as perfect: a kind face that comes with a golden heart, and an unexplained willingness to help people. OK, he’s a dream we may want to have for once, but the second time we think of him, he’s just not “it”. He’s someone living on a page, not the one we would fall for in real life and want so bad to give a hug to fix him, as he has nothing to be fixed. This is also true for the heroines: in this Korean TV drama I saw, there’s this perfect girl that every guy falls in love with (madly and unconditionally), gets every job offer impossible for someone her age, has all the good ideas in the room (no other one has the right to use their brain possibly); whenever she opens her mouth to preach what is right or wrong, I just want to throw the remote right into that moving black hole on the screen “Screw you! You had all the luck in the world without even trying. You have no idea how others feel.” Not that I am jealous; I just think she’s too unrealistic. Showing (hundreds of) heroines like her on TV just suggests the audience that the world should be spinning around one person that is fucking perfect. That is so not true. The world is spinning because of billions of people, with their own story that all deserve to be listened to. None of them was born perfect, but they constantly make an effort to become somewhat.
It’s not that a stable upbringing or a peaceful life style would write no successful story. No, normal is good. If Steve Jobs had been born into an upper middle class family, I don’t think he would have become any less of an interesting personality. The point is, bad things come to any of us, and to every of us; but we are reborn as a tougher person after enduring a pain. Thus, when comes the dark cloud, we could just take it as “a little highlight in my future biography”. Being vulnerable and flawed, after all, is not a bad thing. It makes a human human. It, for that matter, definitely writes a way more interesting story.