Your senior year of high school you read the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and you loved it. Something about Hunter S. Thompson’s free and wild writing style inspired you. What started as an article about the Mint 400 motorcycle race held in Nevada quickly became something much more odd and in your opinion increasingly interesting. It was more about Thompson’s drugged out adventure and his insight on life in America than just a piece on some boring sporting event. It was published in 1972 and thirty seven years later you found his writings to be more relevant than ever. He seemed to hold no regard for the common issues of life, he seemed above it. You definitely did not agree with everything he wrote but you felt that Thompson understood something deeper about life then you did.
As an aspiring writer you wanted to get on Hunter S. Thompson’s level. You wanted to see life through his eyes; you wanted your words to resonate the way his did. You decided that his odd sensibilities were in part due to his experimentation with drugs. So you started researching recreational drugs, finding out more about what you were going to get yourself into. You felt it important to stay away from hard drugs at least in the beginning, and only test the waters. So you became a pothead who occasionally dabbled in psychedelic mushrooms. Now you look back and know that drugs do not make you more interesting but rather more strange. You had a voice, better yet, you have a voice and that is something that belongs to you and not the substances. If anything drugs only made your vision more hazy, confusing, and less obtainable.
Once being very anti drugs, you changed your opinion on them based off of Thompson’s life. Everyone always told you drugs were bad but what did they know? Here was a man who did not restrain himself from his desires and instead found a great deal of success in doing so. Over the years life has taught you that Hunter was an anomaly and not the norm. It is more common to see someone destroy their dreams on drugs, not fulfill them. You are reminded of seeing a man you knew, who most nights slept on a bench outside of the local A.A. meeting place. He would not tell you he is living the dream. He would not explain to you that he understood something greater about life than the common folk. He would only ask for a cigarette and if you knew where to score him some more meth. For every one person who finds success in being a druggie, there is a multitude of others who have done nothing and found their lives in ruin.
Somewhere along the line you understood that you wanted to write like Thompson, not be like him. For all of his genius he was a haunted man, who ended up taking his own life. You learned the importance of being an individual and not a basic copy and paste of someone else’s journey, and you personally equated the feeling to playing the guitar. Yes, one can look up to Jimi Hendrix or Kurt Cobain and want to be able to play just like them, but that doesn’t mean the person needs to start slamming heroin or dropping LSD. One can celebrate the success of an individual without also praising their mistakes.
You used to think that in order to be something, anything, you had to practice the same lifestyles of those who came before you. In order to be a biker you need the standard dress code of black leather jackets, boots, and chains, but that is a generic and dull way of looking at things. If you want to be a biker, you need to ride a bike, period. Make your own style, add some originality. Be a trend setter, not a follower, then when you make mistakes at least they are your own. One should have heroes they look up to but they should not see them as anything more than human, flawed like the rest of us.