i’m not well suited to be a rock star

this weekend, at our convention in argentina, i’ve been reminded of my love/hate relationship with being known by people i don’t know.

in my normal, everyday, walking about town life, no one knows who i am. the people i work with are anything but impressed by me — they know me. they know what a dork i am.

at our conventions in the states, in our tiny little world of youth ministry, there’s a certain amount of “hey, you’re marko” that comes with the turf of being on stage and such.

but here in latin america, where celebrity culture is taken to a much higher level, i’m treated like a bit of a rock star. i can’t walk ten feet through the convention center without someone (or a group of people) asking me to pose for a photo, or sign their convention handbooks. it’s downright weird. i try to “counter” it by being extra accessible. it’s my attempt to “de-mystify” the whole thing (whereas, many of the hipper artists are only seen in passing, as they bolt by in the hipster gear). but making myself accessible only increases the amount of photos i’m asked to be in, or autographs i’m asked to provide. it’s exactly the opposite of the message we want to communicate at these events: the youth workers are the heroes, not the people on the stage. i can say that in my seminars, but they still line up afterward with cameras in hand (along with a few who have great questions). i suspect half of them get home, see the photo they took, and think, “i have no clue who that guy was.”

really, it’s so weird to me: i’m a goofy dork of a guy who happens to have a role that puts me on stage for a general session. and i’m the token american here, which i think adds to the thing.

if i’m really honest (ooh, this hurts, but it’s true), there’s a part of it i like. it’s nice to feel special. but i know it’s really a false accolade, a fleeting “popularity” that has nothing to do with my character or the real me. i’m just “that guy”.

i’ve thought about not taking pictures or signing autographs; but that feels like it would be rude, and would imply (especially with the language barrier, since i can’t do more than smile and say “hola!”) that i’m too good for their silly pictures.

my friends here tease me about it; and i’m not sure i’m handling it well. but i’m not sure what else i should do. as i write this (sunday evening), i’m off to the final general session. it’s been an absolutely wonderful event, as usual. time to put on my goofy grin.

14 thoughts on “i’m not well suited to be a rock star”

  1. when we were in argentina this past year at an english school people had my team sign their yearbooks, we had only been their two days. It was so weird but the pastor (from temperly) told us that it would be really direspectful not to sign.

  2. I think that each person you pose with or sign a booklet for probably feels elated. You’ve always come across as humble, and the two minutes you take with each person will be one of their best memories from the convention.

  3. I think you do a great job seeming like a totally normal, and accessible guy–at least that’s my perception as the average youth worker that attends the conventions. And BTW, you won’t like watching the highlights of your chargers falling at the hands of carolina when you get back. sorry about that.

  4. Being one of those people who have stopped you and asked for a picture with you it is not on a rock star level type deal. For me it was wanting to get a picture with the guy who helps so many of us by making our ministry more professional, easier to manage, and always building us up. I would encourage you to think about as this is one ways we are telling you thank you for all you do. Thank you for putting on a convention that saved many of us from quitting ministry, thanks for the seminars on jr high ministry, the resources you make available, the speakers and authors you introduce us to, etc. So don’t think of it has rock star hype but our way of saying thank you for making a difference in our life so we could pass it own to our students.

  5. Do you think they are actually just attracted to your cute hairstyles? Your post reminds me to take my camera and sharpie to the conference! I heard Les Christie is going to be there.

  6. I think I mentioned this to you before (I may have blogged about it) but you didn’t have that effect on me the one time when I had easy access to you (volunteering for the convention in Atlanta last year). Same with Tic, and most of the speakers. All pretty much normal guys and gals.

    But then I had a chance to talk to your wife. Picture the awkwardness of the Freshman computer geek asking out the senior cheerleader, add a shot or two of Novocaine, and for good measure include half a dozen clowns doing their best to be a distraction. I don’t know how I sounded to her, but I suspect that the above picture would have been an improvement.

  7. Rusty – maybe it’s different at our events in the states because I can talk to anyone who comes up to me. Here, with the language barrier, we share a couple broken words, then they ask, “una foto?”. So there’s nothing relational about it – or at least not dialogical.

    Jeff! Yes, you freaked her out. She introduced herself to you, and you said something like, “I can’t believe you thought you had to introduce yourself to me! I know all about you!”. Jeannie, who is really quite a shy person, especially compared to me, was upset with ME (not you!) for my “stupid blog”. :)

  8. Wow… now I feel all kinds of bad about the Marko Stalker joke at the convention in Atlanta last year… heh.

    Seriously though… even though I have given you a hard time about being “famous” before… one of the highlights of my convention last year was just getting to sit and chat with you for a few minutes… That level of humility, availability, and general easy-going-ness makes it obvious that you are a real person.

    So Thanks… er… Muchas Gracias!


    it was fun though.
    But yeah, people over there tend to idolize whoever person stands at the stage; which annoys me. It is sad, and it contradicts everything they talk about, because they say they are just a regular person, but they never show their faces around people… pitty.
    So just be proud to be who you are, God knows the heart and you know who you are.

  10. I would just start flipping the bird in every picture or mooning the camera, I bet you would have to stop less for pictures, but then you never know you may become a trendsetter and it would have the reverse effect. I can also totally relate to the whole celebrity status thing, I once was Yogi Bear at a camp ground for a summer and boy did people not want to know the real me. The more I wanted to shed the whole bear and pic-a-nic basket thing they would just keep chanting “YOGI!” “YOGI!” even louder. This can really mess with a person’s mind. If you want to talk sometime I bet we could really help each other out. I’ve still never gotten over that. Good luck to you.

  11. I’m glad you’ve admitted your (minor?) enjoyment of the attention/celebrity. Your choice of hairstyle/look makes it obvious that you aren’t trying to blend in with the crowd ;-)

    I think most of us in youth ministry enjoy the “rock star” notariety that sometimes comes our way simply by being known by a bunch of teenagers. (As I get older and decidedly less cool, I’m learning to live without it…) And I can’t help but get a buzz when a youth ministry “celebrity” knows my name (probably because it doesn’t happen that often).

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