Monday, May 03, 2004

Real Life Heroes

We're living in an age of heroes, now.

I watch the news, and they keep naming people heroes. This guy died in the war, this kid died of cancer, this man died in a fire. Sometimes people are alive and they get named heroes-- people who make it home from war, people who survive cancer, people who get other people out of fires. Now, I'm not saying these people aren't heroes, necessarily, but I don't know if just suriving or dying in difficult situations actually makes one a hero. Does a heroic action make one a hero? Does dying? If it does, then doesn't that make ALL of us heroes, sooner or later?

An age of heroes...

Funny to think of it that way. As if we're in a Greek epic. As if we are living through the Greatest of times, with a capital "G".

What if we did think about it that way? What if we just got rid of all the cynism that said the world was all fucked up. What if we got rid of the romanticism that said some other time was better, some other age was the one with all the great deeds, some other people were the heroes.

What if we actually lived our lives as if WE were the heroes-- not some military leader in history, nor in fiction.

For that matter, what if we realized we didn't need some outside force to make us heroes-- nobody pinning a medal on our chests, no newspapers declaring us so. No key to the city here, just us and the choices we make.

Because that's what it's about, isn't it? The choices we make? It's about facing adversity in our lives and choosing the right path, even if it's harder. Choosing to struggle on because you know it is for the better. Sometimes those difficulties might be public enough to get you declared a hero in the papers, but frankly daily struggles can be just as difficult.

When I was a kid, I thought I was going through the craziest, most traumatic childhood. I thought being poor, living across the street from crack dens, having a crazy, unpredictable abusive father terrorizing our house was the worst thing I could have gone through. One of my main purposes in life was to hide what my life was like. It was so horrible, I was so shamed.

It wasn't until I was older that I realized I didn't do anything wrong, and stopped hiding. I shared my stories, and heard others, and that's when I realized that so many of those other stories were so much worse. More tragedy, more pain, more suffering. I started to minimize my story. It wasn't as bad. I didn't deserve to feel like I had survived anything really difficult. It was just normal life. I was just a normal kid, normal person. No hero, here.

I grew up identifying with the heroes. The first books I read were full of heroes, fairytales, myths, Little House on the Prairie, even. Characters who faced down adversity and won in the end. It helped me going through my own adversity, because I knew there was something better down the road... or I believed it anyway.

A hero is someone who not only faces down adversity, but also takes action to make things better, even if it is just selling the cow for a bunch of magic beans. They are not at the mercy of the world around them, but the active principle. The hero has the goal of something better, a better life for their kids, a better world for all kids, a better, stronger self.

Sometimes, I think the last one is the hardest goal of all-- making yourself better and stronger, so that you are better able to achieve the larger goals. Facing down your fear. Dealing with your past traumas. Opening up to the people and possiblities around you. Moving forward, always moving forward.

It's fricking exhausting to be the hero of your own story. It's so tiring to know that you are the one who has to make it all happen. No one else to do it for you-- no knight in shining armor-- unless that knight is you yourself.

Is it worth it all? Being a hero? Is it worth the hard work? When I'm struggling with being the me I want to be, I don't know. It doesn't feel like it. It's too damn hard. The results always seem to come so slow, or not at all. Certainly, there's no newspaper recognizing me for my struggle. And I still have to do the daily grind. Sometimes that daily grind is harder to deal with than the awfulness of my childhood. It's just not as clear, my struggle. It's just not as easy to say I will persevere. The goals of making things better just aren't as desperate.

The daily grind isn't that bad, really. I'm getting along, okay, letting life take me in it's flow.

So why bother struggling to be the hero?

I have to think about it, seriously. Why SHOULD I bother? Why should anyone? Why do we need heroes?

But then, imagine a world full of heroes-- and I don't mean the ones who dive into burning fires or get paid to carry guns, or make millions of dollars throwing a ball around-- I mean a world full of everyday heroes. A world of people struggling to be the best Them, so they could take action, and make things happen. Make things better. What if we weren't all just waiting for someone else to do it? What if everyone was working to contribute something?

Frankly, I think it would cause a lot of trouble. All those people at cross purposes-- all wanting DIFFERENT better worlds. It would throw a wrench into the nice easy works that have been going on for so long. (A good reason for the powers that be not to want everyone to be a hero.)

A world of heroes. An Age of Heroes. Every single one of us a hero, big or small, young or old, rich or poor. Hmmm.

Think about it....