At my last full-time job, one of my dearest co-workers and I used to spend HOURS debating whom everyone on our goofy little staff was within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
And guys, it mattered SO MUCH TO ME.
While my friend Andy was inarguably Iron Man from day one, my MCU role was always in a state of flux. Sometimes Groot, briefly Nebula, I think, momentarily Captain Marvel at the time of my departure from the company…
I knew who I wanted to be, but that’s not how the game works, right? You don’t get to pick your own character. It has to be bestowed upon you.
A not-so-brief interlude:
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that I have this asshole voice living inside my head:
You worthless, useless loser. Oh, what, are you ordering delivery again because you’re too pathetic to go to the fucking grocery store? Everyone’s disappointed in you. You should just give up. Go fuck yourself, Dani.
I told my therapist about this voice and he, like most kind people in my life, immediately said, “Oh, I hate that voice.”
Later on in the same session, the conversation turned to Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. (I don’t know how we got there, but damn, I love having a nerdy therapist.)
Already sniffling, I brokenly mentioned, “I like Spider-Man.”
AND I DO. OH MY GOD I LIKE SPIDER-MAN.
When I was a small girl-child, superheroes felt so inaccessible to me. I didn’t relate at all to the big strong men (and sometimes women) I saw on Saturday morning cartoons. I didn’t really know much about comic books at the time, so my superhero knowledge was limited to what I saw on TV and at the movies. And, like, Batman (my little brother’s FAVORITE) was super cool, don’t get me wrong, but… I don’t know. There wasn’t any connection there for me.
I was twelve years old when Spider-Man came out and I’m not even positive how I managed to get to see it in theatres. As I’ve mentioned before, I do not hail from nerds! But somehow, some way, I saw it. And WOW. Soft, geeky, yearning, mistake-making, “with great power comes great responsibility” SPIDER-MAN?! What else had I been missing out on?!
For a middle schooler obsessed with Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and Language Arts class, Peter Parker was a revelation. Like a lot of us, I don’t think I’d ever seen a geek be a hero before. All these aspects of myself that felt so, well, lame suddenly seemed worthy and exciting and good.
“I like Spider-Man,” I warbled to my therapist just a few months ago, because I do. I really, really like Spider-Man.
(I stood outside in line for two hours in New York in JANUARY to see Turn Off the Dark. I REALLY LIKE SPIDER-MAN.)
(I am sitting wrapped up in a Spider-Man 2 fleece blanket AS I TYPE THIS. I REALLY, REALLY LIKE SPIDER-MAN.)
“Okay,” my therapist said. “Would Spider-Man think you were beyond saving?”
And Team, that little question took all the air out of my lungs.
Would Spider-Man think you were beyond saving?
Because… I mean, of course not. Spider-Man would never give up on me. And, if I want to be like Spider-Man, that means I can’t give up on myself. My therapist charged me that week with trying to replace the Asshole Voice in my head with Spider-Man’s voice and it really, really helped.
So, if that jams with you, try it out! Be your own Spider-Person! Nerd therapy is the best!
Last summer, months after I’d left my old job, I received a text from my Iron Man co-worker:
Hey. Re-watching Homecoming night and I’m making it official.
(Andy, I know you’re probably not reading this, but I mostly wanted to be Peter Parker because you’re Tony Stark. I love you 3000.)
We know the characters that make us feel seen. As good as it feels to get that validation from a beloved outside source, I hope you know you can claim those good feelings for yourself whenever you want. You know who you are, you know who you want to be. I think you know more than you think you do.
Be your own superhero. You got this.