Ever wish you had superhuman powers?
When I was younger, I was obsessed with it. From all the comics and graphic novels that my brother and I would collect, the sci-fi movies and TV series I would watch with my Dad, and the role-playing video games that would always trump homework or chores, saying that I had only one foot in a fantasy world would be kindly inaccurate. I still remember dreams from when I was in elementary and junior high of me flying, communicating telepathically, and manifesting bolts of energy from my temples to help stop crime.
[cue 'Nerd Alert' siren. This is not a test.]
Talking strictly comic book, my all-time favorite characters were Psylocke from Marvel's X-Men and Raven from DC Comics' Teen Titans. Psylocke was a precognitive and telepath, later acquiring the abilities of telekinesis and manifesting her psychic energy as swords and knives. Raven was half-human and half-demon, an empath who could also teleport and use her "soul-self" to see, hear, and fight away from her body. Beyond their psychic abilities, another thing they had in common was that they were rejected at first, even by other mutants. No one was sure if they could be trusted, so each woman had to prove herself.
|Psylocke manifesting her psychic knife.|
|Graphic novel depiction of Raven.|
That last part, in particular, resonated with me. I was already different as a child; of this I was made painfully aware. And if I couldn't fit in, then I just wanted to be different in a good way. And if I thought about it, dreamed about it, and prayed about it enough, maybe it would come true. Then the teasing wouldn't matter, because I would matter. Maybe.
As I got older, my obsession with this possibility began to die away. If it was going to happen, then it would've happened by now, wouldn't it? And I made myself get used to being the odd one out - the quiet one in the corner who would just go with the flow to prevent attention being brought to him. Nothing to say because he didn't want anything said to him. But as the saying goes, what you want most almost never happens when you want it to. When you least expect it, when you've given up, when you're looking elsewhere - that's when it happens.
And that was true with me.
Now before you think I'm talking about dressing up in capes and tights and saving the periled citizens of Austin, Texas, let me assure you that that isn't what I'm referring to. But also let me assure you that it was no less extraordinary.
|Ironically, this film, Good Guys, Inc., was shot when I was 28.|
When I began making major changes to my life when I was 28, like adopting a gluten-free diet and leaving behind the Ph.D. I had spent the last five years pursuing, everything else in my life began to change as well. Instead of being angry, stormy, and frustrated all the time, I began to find moments of stillness, of happiness, and contentment. And the prison of alienation and disconnection I had built around me began to crumble, and I caught glimpses of what it felt like to relate to others and the world around me. I had always wanted to feel connected to others, to be able to understand what they were feeling. Perhaps, in this way, they might understand me as well. But it was through those changes that I began to finally understand that I'd had it all wrong.
First and foremost, I needed to understand and accept myself. Every part of me - the good and the bad. And from there, understanding and accepting others might follow. And others understanding me? The greatest lesson was learning that that didn't matter. That would come in its own time.
|Deanna Troy of Star Trek was also a favorite. I'm kinda like her nowadays.|
Six years later, the way I view life is remarkably different. My ability to empathize and understand how others feel is like nothing I could have imagined. And every day it seems to get stronger and the light within seems to shine even brighter. And I'm not the only one who sees it. When people are feeling downtrodden and defeated by their situations, they come to me. When people need to smile or laugh, they call me to hear my voice. When people need perspective and energy to do what they know they must, they seek my reassurance. And it is so ironic because I used to be the one in their shoes, and I never knew who to turn to. It's funny because I never thought anyone could/would understand, and so I refused to trust anyone fully or let anyone in. There was never full disclosure. And now I'm the one who's trusted, and I'm the one that people invite into their lives without question. And I help them.
What we think of as "superhuman" is directly related to our conception of what it is to be "human." And for a majority of my life, I didn't think very highly of the human condition. It felt painful to the touch, bitter, and something to be tolerated rather than enjoyed. But now, I see that bringing the pain and bitterness close to me and knowing them intimately was how I came to understand their complements, regardless of when that understanding came. And now I grasp that the human condition is as mind-boggling as the universe is expansive, and it is to be honored, exalted, cherished, and above all, shared.
Psylocke, Raven, and all the other mutants and superhumans, helped me to see a world beyond myself. A world of fantasy, where the laws of gravity and the time-space continuum were routinely flouted, where being different meant you could save the world, where being teased and bullied was a necessary evil to help you uncover your latent powers. And while I'm not flying or teleporting anywhere anytime soon, enduring my earlier challenges allowed me to discover aspects of myself, empathy, unconditional regard, compassion, love, that can seem rather alien in today's society.
And it may not be the world all at once, but I do believe I am making a difference in the world. Whether it be through my writing, my cooking and baking, my acting, my photography, my teaching, or simply smiling for no reason beyond happiness at being alive. I understand now my ability to show others a world beyond themselves, to inspire them to challenge their conception of what it is to be "human" and "ordinary," and to help them own their place in this world. I can be that person that shows someone else that being different is nothing to be ashamed of. And every day of my life, and with everything I do, I make that choice so no one ever has to feel the way I did.
The potential to be more than what we are is within each of us, well within our reach. Give that belief wings and set it free.
Only then can you do the same for yourself.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement was intended with my use of comic book images. All rights belong to Marvel Comics and DC Comics.