Finding Hope Through Heroes – A Personal Essay

“Who am I? Are you sure you want to know? The story of my life is not for the faint of heart. If somebody told you I was just an ordinary guy, somebody lied.”

(Spider-Man, 2002)

I should apologize for that intro as it was corny, but then again, this will be a corny article. It might sound like a kid putting on a cape but even in that, there is a beautiful message. This is a story about how superheroes have transformed my life. Hopefully after reading this, your life will be transformed too.

When I was 13 years old, I was being bullied and often suffered. It was a challenge for me to even go to school every morning. Toxic masculinity was rampant at school, I only expressed my emotions and problems by crying in my room with a book covering my face so no one noticed. Recently, I have actually been craving ”negative” experiences like crying. Sounds weird to say that right? But there is a specific story explaining why and how superheroes saved my life.

Let’s start in 2014. When I went to my first viewing of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I was so excited. The first Amazing Spider-Man film was one of the best experiences of my life. Naturally, the same amazing experience was expected for the sequel. While enjoyable, something felt odd. It didn’t feel real. There wasn’t any excitement in it like the first. Perhaps I just didn’t connect to the movie, but I noticed a pattern of apathy across many activities I used to be passionate about. Before I knew it, food didn’t really have any taste, I stopped caring about people, my family, or friends. As heartless as it sounds, when my dad died, I never cried about it. All I could feel was emptiness and me being numb. It was like my emotions had a strict diet of bland bread and water.

Cut to four years later the issue was still there, but I was doing better. I had friends and even started working out. There was nothing to complain about and that feeling of emptiness didn’t cross my mind. Until it came back months later and quickly drained any progress I made. I had decided to go to the doctor, and I got diagnosed with depression. The diagnosis comforted me funny enough. I even got a therapist which gave me genuine hope to recover. Today, I am still with the same therapist. She has been incredibly helpful, but I still fight that empty feeling. The slow process of recovery brought the hopelessness back.

Things shifted for the better when I watched the film, 500 Days of Summer. I felt a connection to this movie that brought out genuine. For the first time in years, I start to cry. But this cry, it was not sad as much as it was happy. I never cried so much and have it feel so great. It was like I’ve been in an emotional coma for 6 years and I finally woke up through this film. Since then. I’ve been obsessed with that day and I’ve been holding on to hope that one day, I could feel normal again. And for a while, that state of feeling normal was present. Unfortunately, that hope once again went away.

A few months later that feeling of numbness came back very strong. This was it. This was when I had enough of this dull, lackluster life and wanted change immediately. I settle an appointment with my therapist in desperation. I tell her:’’ I just want to feel like how I felt when I was 13 and before I felt numb. I felt alive. This does not. This feels like my life is on auto-pilot. ‘’ She said: ‘’Well we can work on a new balance….but I don’t think you can feel the same way as when you were 13.”

The desperation I had led to me searching for mental exercises as I wanted a solution to my problem. I found one and implemented it for quite some time. It somewhat worked, but the overwhelming presence of my emptiness still made me feel hopeless. I found another mental exercise and wanted to neglect it as the others didn’t make a huge impact. But I didn’t, because, around that time I was watching CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover with Brandon Routh as Superman. I loved his Superman for years and seeing him again sparked a sense of renewed hope. It felt amazing to have hope like that. It put me in a Superman mood and I was generally fascinated by the entire idea of hope. With that extra boost, I’ve been working harder and feeling more alive and fulfilled. The things I do feel genuine again, my hobbies feel passionate again, I care so much about people and it all feels real. I went from feeling nothing and feeling experiences again the way I always wanted to.

All of this can be attributed to Superman inspiring me to have hope. Hope, that maybe one day, everything is going to be alright. I still feel empty at times but now what mattered most to me where those small moments of happiness in between, which add up quickly. Those moments where you feel genuine happiness and you feel like everything is okay, its what I keep fighting for. When you make it to those moments, look back at your old situation and compare, you will be insanely happy that you held on to hope. Here’s an example of Superman believing in those tiny happy moments.

Superman moments like these inspired me more like a superhero myself. The question became, how do I try to be a superhero? The beauty of superheroes is that they can turn their pain into something that inspires people. My favorite scene in The Amazing Spider-Man displayed this beautifully and is one of my main motivators.

Peter had been searching for his dad his whole life. He lost his only other father-figure in Uncle Ben. That’s his trauma, but he decides to do something wonderful in the bridge scene. There’s a kid stuck in a car that’s about to explode and he’s screaming for his dad. Spidey arrives and gives him the mask to climb towards him. ‘’Put on the mask, it’s gonna make you strong.’’ He was that same kid looking for his dad. Now he’s using himself as a symbol of hope to inspire people. Spider-man saves the kid and looks at the father and child while realizing that’s a moment he will never have again. But he made sure someone else has it and made someone feel safe. That’s what heroes do.

How can you apply this in your own life? Try to think of something you struggled with. Then think of a way you would like to make people feel safe and hopeful in that area. My way is by writing this article. I would feel insanely fulfilled if even one person gets inspired by this. The fact that I could generate hope for myself and then inspire other people with it would mean the absolute world to me. A practical way for you to apply this is when you feel bad or stressed out. You know how it feels like and you can sympathize with others who feel that too because you know the pain. Take a deep breath and visualize how great it would feel if someone or something, took you out of that stressed state and would make you feel hopeful and positive. It’s like you see the light in the dark and it pulls you. Now you can realize how much it would mean to others if they got that from you. You become the person or the thing you would love to have.

After this, you can start to affect others with this hopeful, positive, and inspiring energy. This can be just as small as greeting someone in a positive mood. Surprising your friend with a burger if they’re having a bad day. Smiling to strangers when they’re not looking too happy. Or you can go big, and see what things in your life have caused you pain and how you could turn that pain into something good. Maybe you had financial issues and stress, so that makes you want to donate more. Maybe you’ve had manipulative friends and you want to work on your empathy to ensure no one feels like how you felt.

Whatever it is, turn the pain into power, and you will be a superhero.

Thank you for reading this. If you’d like more of this I have a youtube channel called Superhero motivation. If you’re interested, click on the link.