I remember being asked this by a teacher in the 8th grade. It was actually a writing assignment and a brilliant exercise in self-discovery. I remember running through a litany of athletes and actresses and people I thought were my "heroes", but every time one would come to mind I would think, "Well, is this person really my hero?" I realized that I didn't know anything about Rickey Henderson except that he was really fast and a great baseball player (hey, it was the 80s, I was from California, and the A's were on fire!). I didn't know anything about who these idols were as people. I didn't know how they treated others or what they valued or if they lived with integrity. In my 12 year old mind, I resolved that I had to be my own hero because if I wasn't living up to my own potential and living by my own integrity and exercising virtue that I could be proud of, then I was not living according to God's plan for me.
In hindsight, it was a bit arrogant to say that I am my own hero but I really didn't know anyone that I should look up to. As an adult, I have found many heroes in the saints. Saint Monica is a great inspiration and beam of hope to me. Saint Therese of Lisieux is a dear friend whom I try to model. Mary is so much more than a hero. On this earth, my father continues to be a man I look up to.
Outside of family, Joan of Arc has always been a strong model for me and my Confirmation patron saint. I was captured by her story at least as early as eighth grade and decided then and there that I wanted to be a counter-cultural woman like she was. I didn't necessarily have to fight in a war or something, but I wanted to follow God's will to do whatever He wanted, even if it seemed ridiculous by the standards of the world. I don't pray to her as often as I should, but she's still sort of my rallying point for what I want my life to be.