I've never had what anyone would call role models, discounting people I actually know, until very recently. It's hard to recall what directed my moral compass when I was a child, but I expect a lot of it came from parents and teachers. I do remember one stage in Primary School where I asked myself what a Princess would do, before doing anything. As I was growing up I would take advice to the letter from the book I was reading at the time, but it was always unlikely that those paper protagonists would stick around on my shoulder for any substantial length of time.
I'm not sure if this is different for me as it is for others or not. I remember often feeling terribly ignorant at the end of Primary School/beginning of Secondary school because I knew the names of virtually no actors or musical artists, and from my observation I concluded that these were the figures my peers were looking up to. In year 7 we had to write a letter to a famous person, anyone we liked, as long as they were English. I chose Stephen Fry, because he narrated the audio books of the Harry Potter series.
This is the first quantifiable moment I can think of, which indicated I would be a nerdfighter in future life.
In a nutshell, nerdfighters are a community of people who follow the vlogbrothers, Hank and John Green, on Youtube, who share and celebrate their nerdiness together, and use the power of it to decrease World-Suck. As it appears I am almost constantly blogging about Youtubers these days, I'm certain it will come as no surprise to readers that it is there that I found the first individuals I would label as my role models.
The Green bros. have created a conversation between themselves across the internet, whose videos are thought-provoking and intelligent. They've created other channels to explore the ways Youtube can be used as an educational tool, and show that young people are still inquisitive, and eager, and creative. John Green is an award-winning novelist, and I have not yet met a reader of his books who have said they haven't cried whilst reading them at least once.
John and Hank are more relatable for me than any celebrity because the connection generated is genuine. There is no costume and make-up department, no producer, no higher power pulling the strings above their videos, manufacturing the response. Even when their audience was comparatively tiny back in 2007, they made their videos to the highest possible standard, on subjects they were passionate about. In 2013, with over 900,000 subscribers, their subject matter interests me, and their advice is relevant to me.
It was these brothers, who I met last night.
John's latest work The Fault in Our Stars is on tour in the UK, celebrating the release of it on our little island. Yesterday around 900 people gathered in Cadogan Hall, London, on just one of the days of the tour. I've never experienced anything like what happened to me there. Finding myself in a whole hall full of like-minded individuals, meeting in person others who also drink in every well-articulated word of the vlogbrothers, and attempting to sing along with Hank's fast-paced tunes about quarks and deep-sea angler fish, was electrifying and unbelievable.
The evening included a book-signing by both brothers, and though we had to wait about an hour and a half for our turn, it could not have been more worth it. John said they wouldn't be offended if we left early and skipped the 2 seconds of awkward conversation we would get with them, but I wouldn't have passed up that 2 seconds for the world. Though they won't remember, it seemed important to tell them in person how much I appreciate what they do, and how much I hope they continue doing it. Plus, I now own things covered in their sharpie squiggles.
Though I've tried, meeting role models in person is indescribable. I'm glad that the Pixar film The Incredibles was wrong on that count. For me, February 3rd will be known as Annual Vlogbrothers Day, so that I can recall the night I met two of the most influential figures of my life at this point, and so that I Don't Forget To Be Awesome.