by P. Braithwaite
When I was a child, I’d have these nightmares. I’m still not entirely sure what they were about, but I’d climb into my parents’ bed and wedge myself between the two of them. I’d throw my arms and legs over my father and fall asleep on him. My mother was less tolerant of my nightly intrusions, but my dad never seemed annoyed. I felt safe in between them. This went on until I was about eight, and then I came to a realization: it was time to sleep in my own bed.
On September 11th 2001, I could smell the smoke from the fallen towers from my house. We were over 40 miles away, but it didn’t feel that way. It was terrifying. The towers fell every three minutes on the television replays.
I was so confused by what was going on.
And so, that night, unable to find safety in my 17 year old body, I crawled into my parents’ bedroom and wedged myself between them. This was something I hadn’t done in years.
In the dark, crammed onto their small bed, I realized there were things in this world from which my parents’ couldn’t save me. I no longer lived in the world of night terrors and bad dreams. I lived in a world with real problem (in my backyard). I understood my parents’ limits as I understood my own. We were all in danger together.
In that moment I became an adult.
At a certain point we realize that our parents, partners, and heroes are simply people. They are imperfect. They can’t save us. They are complex and contradictory. They have limits; they miss the mark. Sometimes they don’t know what to do. Sometimes they do the absolute wrong thing. They’re not made of magic, and they can’t rescue you from the demons in your head…
Even superheroes have fundamental flaws.
And when you get that, when you understand we’re all just people, that’s when you must learn to forgive your heroes for their flaws. People even the ones we most admire most, are no wiser, better, or grander than you — you can release them from all of your faulty expectations.
You can also release yourself from the impossible task of perfection. That when you become responsible for your self.
When that happens — when your heroes become real people — hug them as if you’re hugging yourself. We’re all in this together, after all.