I named my son after Spider-Man. Well, Peter Parker, to be exact.
To say that comic books have changed my life is an understatement.
So on the day Brandon Parker Coursen was born, one thing was very clear to me: comic books have left an indelible mark on my life and I wanted to pass my passion on to him.
Something magical happens when you identify with a particular fictional character. You realize you’re not alone in this world, and that if that person can make it through a tough time, there’s no reason you can’t either.
Thanks to my parents, I had the support as a kid to like whatever I wanted. My sister and I would put our Barbie dolls in fashionable outfits and then have our He-Man action figures battle. We’d play dress up, then Super Mario.
The sky was the limit; I didn’t realize until years later how rare it is to have freedom of self-expression at a young age. The impact that had in defining who I am now informs the kind of parent I want to be to my son.
Back then, “Star Wars” was a religion to me. I could really identify with Luke Skywalker — a young person not quite aware of how much greatness he was capable of if he just believed in himself.
Unfortunately, other kids at school would make fun of the things I liked, and it made me doubt myself.
The positive, bubbly person I was became shy and self-conscious, and she stuck around longer than I’d like to admit.
But when I read my first Spider-Man comic, Peter Parker spoke to me. He was an awkward kid in high school just trying to get by and, like Luke Skywalker, completely unaware of how much his life was about to change.
Comic books take me to a place that other forms of media don’t. The art, the colors, the story — they grab me and pull me into a whole new world. It’s an escape.
I made it out of my awkward teen years alive and one day, in college, something life-altering happened: I met someone that loved the same nerdy things I did.
I was sitting in a small café on my campus and in walked a guy with a big smile. He looked like someone I wanted to know. He was with a friend of mine, and they sat down to join me. We traded “Spaceballs” quotes and that was it.
There’s an inspirational quote I love: “Enjoy your burrito.” In one episode of Chris Hardwick’s “Nerdist” podcast, a co-host described a time in his life when he was down on his luck. He was on a lunch break from a job he hated and went to his favorite burrito place. He focused hard on enjoying his lunch because he knew what awaited him once it was over, and it wasn’t good. The hosts now end each episode by reminding everyone to “enjoy their burrito.”
As a new mom, I reflect on my life experiences to determine what kind of lessons I want to pass on to my son. I vow to always remind him that with great power comes great responsibility, that it’s not who he is, but what he does that defines him and that the force will be with him … always.
Comics may not be for everyone. But, I believe there is something you are passionate about and that embracing it will make you a happier person. I urge you to find this passion. Live your life to the fullest.
Oh, and remember to enjoy your burrito.
Originally published on NorthJersey.com.