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Infinity and Beyond: With great power

February 20, 2018

You’ve heard the same clichés a million times. “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” “An original is worth more than a copy.” “Life is too short to be someone else.” Those are nice sayings, but there
comes a time when they just don’t have the same simplicity as they did when you were a child and didn’t have a care in the world.

Now, you’re an adult. You’re not in high school anymore. You may have a brand new group of friends.

There’s a good chance you’ve changed your major two, three or four times. Basically, you’re trying to figure this whole “life” thing out.

On top of all that, college comes with a lot of pressure–the pressure to decide on a career path, to get involved, to make friends, and to make good grades, just to name a few out of many.

Perhaps the greatest pressure we all face, though, is a pressure we put upon ourselves: the pressure to figure out who we are.

With college comes a clean slate. You’re surrounded by people who have no idea who you are. You can be anyone you want to be.

It’s easy, though, to fall into a pattern of comparing yourself to others.

The thing about those aforementioned clichés is that they don’t really offer much useful advice about this. At the end of the day, it all comes down to that moment where you learn to truly embrace and love yourself. That’s something no cliché saying can manufacture.

Last summer, the third (and best) variation of Spider-Man hit theaters with Spider-Man: Homecoming.

The version of Peter Parker we got to see was wildly different from the last two for a number of reasons:

1. He is actually played by someone within the proper age range (God bless you, Tom Holland).

2. The movie skips right over the radioactive spider bite/RIP Uncle Ben/with great power comes great responsibility origin story.

3. Spider-Man is not the only superhero out there. He is just another superhero in a universe with dozens of superheroes like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor.

What we see in Homecoming is a young, inexperienced Peter under the mentorship of Tony Stark/Iron Man and fresh out of an encounter with the Avengers. More importantly, we see a Peter who wants more than anything to be like Stark and to be an Avenger, so he jumps on the first opportunity he finds to “save the world.”

His first mission ends with him nearly drowning and subsequently being saved by Stark, who advises him to stick to being a “friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man.”

To no surprise, Peter ignores Stark’s advice. After a series of events, including a near-fatal elevator incident for Peter’s friends in the Washington Monument, Peter finds himself aboard the Staten Island Ferry, prepared to take down Adrian Toomes A.K.A. the Vulture and some of Toomes’ gang, which concludes with Stark having to step in and fix Peter’s mistake once again.

“I just wanted to be like you,” Peter tells Stark, who demands Peter hand the Spider-Man suit back over to him.

Then Peter says the line that tells us all we need to know: “I’m nothing without this suit.”

Every move Peter had made up to that point was about trying to be Iron Man or Captain America. His self-worth came from the suit that had stood alongside such heroes–the suit that made him an Avenger for even a little while. For him, being Peter Parker/Spider-Man wasn’t enough. The incredible gift he had, the friends and family surrounding him and all of his intellectual success was not enough. He wanted what someone else had and what someone else was.

In other words, Peter is all of us at some point in our lives–failing to recognize all we have that makes us special, and instead, striving to have what makes someone else special. This is where that pressure to figure out who we are comes to play.

We have our whole lives ahead of us to grow, to chase our dreams and to find out who we are. Why do we waste that time with inauthenticity when the happiest form of ourselves we can be is the most
authentic form?

You have the time now to define who you’re going to be as you move into the so-called “real world” of adulthood. There are thousands of incredible people you’ll encounter along the way, but look no further than yourself for the answer to who you want to be. Along the way, celebrate what makes you unique, and celebrate what makes the people around you unique.

Maybe those clichés aren’t wrong, but life is not that simple either. It takes that defining moment where you realize your worth for everything to fall into place.

There’s a pivotal scene in Homecoming where Peter is trapped, desperate and alone, with no technologically advanced suit and no Stark to save him. He only has himself and his powers. Peter decides in that moment who he’s meant to be, and it saves his life.

He’s not Iron Man. He’s not an Avenger.
He’s Peter Parker. He’s Spider-Man.

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