A blog from the past. I wrote this blog apparently over two years ago, if not more. I do not have the same mindset still, or the same desires. It is long, but I want to make sure it is added for historical purposes, so my children can read this later on.
What did you dream of doing with your life as a child, young teen, twenty something, mid-life crisis, or even after retirement? Did you reach your goal or, like most people, did life throw a series of curve balls, or maybe it was just one single change-up and you found yourself down a path that you never even imagined?
For most of my life I remember wanting to be a hero. I wanted to be a helicopter pilot for the police as a first grader. I still have the poster I designed to prove it. I was Spider Man when I was about 9 for Halloween one year. I collected D.C. and Marvel Comic books as a young pre-teen that I still own. When I browse through those I see my idols of Spiderman, Thor, Superman, the Fantastic 4, and Wolverine. I wanted all their super powers, but mostly I just wanted strength…and to fly. And I looked up to my two uncles who volunteered as fire-fighters and paramedic duties for our local volunteer fire department. One of my uncles was in the local Army National Guard unit and they were called up to go to the Persian Gulf War. Even though their unit never made it overseas, he was still gone and preparing to go. I made an art journal about it. I sneakily watched Rambo and Predator at a friends house. I loved the idea of the renegade hero. The underdog who knew how to handle himself in tough situations.
By high school things started changing for me. I became serious about my faith, but I also felt the tug of serving something more tangible that was greater than myself – my country. Looking at the examples of my dad, his dad, and his dad’s dad, I realized that I didn’t want to break the tradition of military service. Like I said already, one of my uncles had served in the guard during the Persian Gulf War, and I was eager to test the waters of manhood in military service. I went in with a guaranteed job billet for ground radio communications, but during basic training I realized that I wanted something more. I was ineligible for one job due to some childhood stupidity that left me with a police record, but the combat world of a Tactical Air Control Party member was okay with that background, and looking back, they probably wished that I was little more rough around the edges.
During military service I excelled, but I also got burnt out on the job. I was trying to be a hero with my faith in Jesus while also being a hero for the military. I didn’t do anything special that stands out above anyone else. I did what was asked of me and trained some other guys to replace me who went on to do some “great” things by man’s standards.
Since being out of the service I have struggled with my hero identity. I lost my faith in the God of my youth back in 2005-2007 and have struggled to bring some semblance of that faith back since then. I tried teaching high school (even though I wanted to teach elementary but the only option that presented itself was high school) and that was extremely rewarding and hero like, yet my identity was still sketchy at best and I found myself burnt out quickly while figuring out what to do next. Then I landed a government contract job, supporting the military in a training capacity, and it was extremely fun…but it was the anti-thesis to being a hero for various reasons, and I found myself itching to do something amazing with my life.
Two jobs later and the itch is still there; to be great. To be a hero and to prove my value and worth to myself more so than to anyone else. I have pushed myself to the limits physically and mentally in the past, but I have never been through something that lets me know that “I have been baptized in fire and blood and come out as steel” in the words of one commander to his men.
Shouldn’t I value being a hero to my family? To being a solid dad who is around when I am needed and able to have fun when I am not needed? I am writing this later at night and my son just had a nightmare. I was able to pick him up, hold him, comfort him, and provide the security that he needs to get back to sleep. Why isn’t that kind of hero something that is satisfying? The hero complex is a symptom of something else. I cannot quite put my finger on it, but it is in my psyche. It is this desire ever since I can remember to be great and to do great things for the people around me – including my enemies. I tell myself that if I can love the people who hate me that maybe my actions and words can change their minds. Maybe this is impossible thinking, after all, Jesus didn’t say that the greater love is laying down our lives for just anyone – only our friends. But Jesus did say to return hatred with kindness and a servant’s mindset. He said it would cause our enemies to become angry. Do good to those who persecute you. Weird.
I remember trying to break a bundle of sticks between some bricks at the age of five. I thought I was invincible. I watched shows like Transformers, G.I. Joe, Night Rider, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Top Gun, and Rambo. I read my children’s Bible and in Sunday School we went over heroes like David against Goliath, Daniel and the Lion’s Den, Abraham’s faith in almost sacrificing his only son, Jesus against all of humanity, Paul’s suffering for his faith, the three dudes in the fire (Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego – sorry if I misspelled those). I was surrounded by the thoughts of heroism. My uncle getting activated for the Persian Gulf War and training to hit the sand box. My granddads working hard to provide for their families. And just the notion of chivalry in general – that the less fortunate and weak need to be protected from those who would abuse them.
But who am I to desire these things? I am no different than any other guy out there who has delusions of grandeur all his life only to find that he has come up short yet again. And in the end it comes down to what? the definition of manhood? the desire to be an authentic man in a pluralistic, asexual, and immoral society that frowns on such displays of heroism as something grotesque and macho-chauvinistic? I don’t know. But it eats me up sometimes. It eats away at my soul and demands to be fed. I am an adrenaline junky who never gets to juice up and when I do I find it unfulfilling because it is fruitless or without a purpose. I am not giving up yet, but I am afraid that I am required to give up heroism as I know it in order to be a responsible man and to leave a legacy that matters in light of eternity, not the temporal. I don’t want to give it up though.
So like I said, this was a couple of years ago. I have not necessarily given up on the idea of heroism but I have definitely changed my mindset. I am thoroughly enjoying fatherhood right now and I am in the process of rekindling my marriage. These two aspects of my identity are more important than selfish-desires for wasteful heroism. A man cannot go out and seek to be a hero. Becoming a hero just happens. It is a label given to people who put the needs of others above their own in times of need. And a hero does not typically see themselves as anything special. I would argue that most just want to be left alone and go back to who they were before.
So instead of seeking to be a hero, I want to seek to be the best father and husband I can be. I want that to be a large part of my legacy.