by: Tom Rau
Who are the real superheroes in life?
I’m currently packing for a weekend trip to the wonderful1 beaches of Ocean City, Maryland with what constitutes about 95% of my best friend list. Every year I feel like I see these guys with less frequency. We’ve all grown up2, found a path, moved away, and focused more and more on doing whatever it is that life has chosen for us. On the one hand it is immensely sad; these are people I love like family, have more fun with than any other individuals on the planet, and often see less than once a year. On another level though it seems perfectly natural; we grow up, we make friends, and then we splinter off into whatever direction the tree of life takes us.
We all have heroes; be they musicians, athletes, movie stars, politicians, humanitarians, whatever. In some way shape or form it is something that we all as humans share. In order to make some sense out of life we create our own legends. And while our heroes are legends to us, to them, if they are living, are just men with their own heroes, their own problems, and their own lives to try and make sense of. But another thing happens; we get older and the legend changes.
Growing up, my first four heroes were Ryne Sandberg, Walter Payton, Michael Jordan, and my big brother Pete. This was followed by a second tier of heroes which included Fozzy the Bear, Mike Singletary, The Fridge, motorcycles, fire trucks, the rest of the Chicago Cubs, and my grandpa, a door-to-door candy salesmen3. I look at this list now and it kind of makes me remember being a kid, being filled with wonder and imagination and wanting to be like these people who, other than my brother and grandfather, I really knew nothing about. They were my heroes because they created awe, because they stirred my imagination, and because they were great at what they did.
Today I’m 33 years old. And while I still love to be awed and see athletes do incredible new things on their field or court of choosing, those guys aren’t the legends of my life. The legends of my life are the men who flew through glass doors, dove into bushes, wore warpaint, slip-n-slided on a boogey board while wearing a giant toy car like a shawl, shared music, smashed cars, fell down steps, drunk bong water, dressed up like Nelly, played music with me at 3am, saw miracles, took drugs, listened to me, laughed with me, and held me up when I was too fucked up too stand; a far cry from the Michael Jordan’s and Ryne Sandberg’s of life.
I guess my point is that as we grow, what becomes of increasing importance are the things that we are a part of. I still love my Chicago sports teams and in an abstract way feel like I am a part of them when they win. But I don’t expect my feelings to coincide with Derrick Rose’s feelings when they win the title in 2013. I am not one of them. It will be a great moment for me, but a truly legendary one for him. His heroes will have become Taj Gibson, Luol Deng, and hopefully another scorer. My heroes will still have names like Treech, Nicky Ritz, Hager, Shza, Sammy the Bull, and Ole’ Man4. And in my eyes these figures are just as legendary. They are my heroes because they too created awe, because they stirred my imagination, and because they were also great at what they did and did it in a way that was directly impactful on my own life.
So as I pack to go on a trip that signifies the passing of one of my hero’s life into its next phase5 I feel a lot of different things. First I feel completely pumped to go spend a weekend with my favorite group of superheroes. But then I also feel a lot of nervousness. On the rare occasions when we are all together I feel like there’s added pressure on all of us to live up to our own personal legend while all the while creating new ones that will remain in our minds until the next time we meet. With great power…