I admittedly have a Superman complex: I think I can do anything. Anything. Climb Mount Everest? Just give me a pickaxe, a rope and a yak. Swim with the sharks? Let me grab my trunks. Conquer world hunger? I need a loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter…you get it. I often tell my wife I cannot fly and I cannot read minds; everything else is on the table.
But I have limits. I’m learning that much. I can’t do it all and juggling the multiple personae I have often gets the best of me. I am a husband, a father, someone’s employee, a business owner, a writer. And just me. Sometimes I find my rhythm and everything is clicking along like clockwork, making stride after stride; sometimes it’s like Spiderman 2 and I’m getting my ass kicked every time I turn around. In the course of one week, I’ve learned I can be a better employee, that I need to spend more time with my wife, that I yell at my daughter too much, that I really should figure how to create epubs, and that my ankle still hurts too much to walk my dog. But I do try; I do set a bar for myself in all aspects of my life that I strive to reach. And more often than not, my efforts are largely successful. Sometimes, though, I fall. I fail. Sometimes I realize I just a man.
There are things you know about yourself long before someone decides to bring it to your attention. I’m a procrastinator. I’ve known it for a long time. I just never got around to telling anybody. But I’m also a big-hearted sap who tries to save the world—at least for those around me—but I take on far too much and the best-laid plans of mice and this man often go awry. I don’t have the cape and the shiny red boots.
In Superman Returns, Lois and Supes take a flight and he takes her incredibly high, like to the top of the world and he asks her, “What do you hear?” She tells him “Nothing.” Superman says, “I hear everything. You wrote that the world doesn’t need a savior, but everyday I hear people crying for one.” This was after he’d left for 7 years to go find any remnants of his home world. The key part here is he left. The needs of the world didn’t stop; his responsibilities never diminished. But he had to take care of himself, to recharge his own batteries so he could be who he needed to be for everyone else. Even Superman couldn’t do it all. Even Superman needed a break.
I think I’ve come to understand Superman a little bit better. Some of it has to do with the public vs. private personas I have—the person I can be behind these words, the person I have to be on my Day Job, the person I am when no one is looking. The superhero vs. the secret identity. In the comics they say the secret identity is necessary because the hero’s enemies will use their loved ones as pawns in their schemes. I think it’s because the hero needs a safe place to be herself.
We are torn as writers to do and be these multiple people, for the sake of craft and for the sake of the sanity that comes when we finally succumb to the voices in our heads. We have to do it. I have to do it. For me, putting words on a page or screen is as natural and as necessary as breathing. I can’t not do it. Any more than Superman can’t not fly. Can’t not fight for truth, justice and the American way. Juggling these multiple identities is a struggle for me: Christopher Starr the author has to be separate from Christopher Starr the husband and father. But they are both necessary and really are two sides of the same coin. Like Clark Kent and Superman. Bruce Wayne and Batman.
And as I try to figure out who to be for whom, I still hear everything.
I hear it all, see it all, know it’s coming long before it does, long before a week like this past one rears it’s ugly head. I know it because I know me. I know the man I am. And I know that I will wake up tomorrow, having taken my lumps from the past seven days, I will rise and begin to put the shattered pieces of my ego back together and I will try again. I will take my daughter to breakfast and make my wife a priority and hobble around the block with my dog and spend part of my Labor Day weekend trying to make up for lost time professionally. I will try to wear the cape again.
I can’t not do it.