When I arrived at work this morning, all the hubbub and hullabaloo was about the missing shovel. No one could find it. I offered my help. “EVERYONE already tried looking for it.” “Don’t even bother. We all looked. You’ll never find it.” “I thought I could find it, too. You won’t.” “Seriously, everyone in the restaurant tried.” Moments later, I emerged, shovel in hand.
There will be moments in your life, big and small, where people may not believe in you or will tell you that you can’t do something. Always try. Never give up.
I’m feeling a lot of feelings right now. Some of them okay, some of them fine and some of them the downright worst. It may sound absurd and naive, but I came to the internet to find solace. To find intimate words and feelings and thoughts that reflected how I’m feeling and thinking but maybe better. Instead, I found an impersonal wave of nothingness, a flood of links to cold facts that do an absolute disservice to Stan Lee and who he was and what he meant to people. What he meant to me. And that particular feeling is anger, and it’s an ugly one, but at least it’s a real, honest feeling, and not a bullshit headline that reads “Old Man Dead at 95.” Because Stan Lee wasn’t an old man. I’ve learned — through the wisdom of my friends like Dawn — what old means. Old is when you decide that you know everything, that there is nothing new in the world that you can possibly learn or change for the better you can make. You can be twenty-three and old as hell, or seventy-eight and young as spring.
My friends are not old, and he may not have known it, but Stan Lee was one of my best friends. He and his friends had been there for me in times that no one else was. You can tell me that Spider-Man is fake and fantasy, but the only thing about him that didn’t match up with what real people are like is that he was ALWAYS there for me, anytime I needed him. In that, he was better than real, and he and his kind gave people like me something to look up to, when real people too often let me down.
Stan’s enthusiasm is something I emulate without even consciously trying. My love and passion for stories and books and TV and film and pop culture are seeds from his immortal and forever youthful soul. I get too excited for normal people, but in Stan’s world I’m not too hot or too cold — I’m just right.
I met Stan last year. It was one of the most special and surreal days of my life. It was shortly before I quit drinking for good, and I remember, with the exception of a few beers throughout the day, just really being sober and in that magical moment. He made me want to be better, as did every character he ever helped create. I’ll probably never swing from building to building, but taking time out to cheer up a kid I can do, and it’s just one of a million little lessons Spidey and Stan instilled in me.
To be an Avenger is not to save the world from killer robots or an alien invasion; it’s about avenging yourself, and all the wrong choices you’ve ever made. In that sense, we can all be Avengers.
He was a forerunner of the American — and humanist — ideas of diversity and inclusion and unity. “Not to have diversity of different races and nationalities is ridiculous,” Lee told EW in June 2015. “Because the world is diverse. The more we can include everybody, the better it is.” An astounding lesson of compassion and love and humanity.
He was political without being political. He just believed in the right thing. And his passing — I’m sobbing at that word — leaves a vaccum. Of justice. Of morality. Of positivity. But worst of all, it leaves a vacuum in my heart. In my nature and in my being. And it feels like a vaccum, like nothingness being pulled out of my insides. This isn’t tragic or unexpected but like I said, he was one of my best friends and his leaving hurts just the same. So, no link to some bullshit news post about some old man dying. Just a link to all the feelings that I’m feeling, something Stan taught me was okay. Was more than okay — was essential to being a human. Was powerful.
And with even a little power, comes great responsibility.
In an attempt to help people get inside my characters’ heads, I’ll try to find simplified examples from the internet and use them to begin a discussion and illustrate certain behaviors or traits. Ashley Maypole has a lot going on — we’ll talk more about the other stuff later on — but something that both he and I suffer from is something called Imposter Syndrome. “I feel like a fake” — the first line in the diagram — is the clearest way to understand how this feels, and on a perpetual basis. Page 3 of issue #1, seen here, finds Ashley, hungover and strung out, laying down everything he’s thinking. It’s a quick, decisive sketch of who he is, as told by and to himself.
I’ve struggled my entire life to feel like anything I do is authentic or worth anything. It’s irrational, and not recognizing it as it is was damaging to me and others. As much as I feel, which is too much, and work hard at nearly everything I do, it often fails to appear to be or feel as real as when other people do it. I don’t know why, but at least I can recognize it now, and that helps. It helps to have a name for it and know that other people think and feel this way, too.
The second part of the diagram is even more important — ways to deal with it. Talking about your feelings is important, as is listening to the same people you vent to. I could for sure listen better — sometimes I get talking and I can’t stop and I think it’s just in my always vain attempt to show people that I’m smart and that I know stuff, too. And it makes me feel dumb and the cycle goes on.
The good news is that art helps. Whatever way you choose to express yourself can be a positive way to battle things like this in your own life. And if all else fails, get a cute dog. Cute dogs cure all ails.
I think, at the end of the day, that human beings just really need two things: to feel like they’re being heard, and to feel like they’re loved.
And I think that when a person isn’t getting either or both of those things is when they start acting not as themselves, or at least who they really want to be. When they start making irrational or bad choices. When they start digging holes because they can only see down.
Most people can listen. And most people have the capacity to love. If you’re one of those people, use that today and help other people see up. Because I think human beings really just need two things. And that isn’t a lot.