In trying to think of someone I could call my “mentor,” I came up with my supervisor at work, who I always seem to turn to whenever I have tough life decisions that I need to discuss with someone who knows better. However, I realized that I really don’t know much of anything about how her personally. It’s funny now that I think about it, actually. I have no issue disclosing my personal issues with her and asking her for advice even though I know almost nothing about her. I suppose it makes sense then that she’s working towards a PhD in Social Work. She’s a “natural,” if you buy into that sort of thing. However, I can’t say I necessarily look up to her.
And so I began to think more about people I look up to as opposed to just mentors. Surprisingly, there aren’t many candidates that came to mind. I won’t go into details for now, but let’s just say that my upbringing has made me very self-reliant. While I have no trouble working with and taking cues from others, I generally don’t look up to other people.
Except for one man who I learned about a few years ago. It all started with…
Wait. I’m not exactly sure how it all started.
The point is, I stumbled upon this concept of “real-life superheroes” not too long ago, and it piqued my interest. I believe this was around the time that The Avengers was released, and so I was still on a superhero “high,” if you could call it that. I started reading up on these real-life superheroes, who are basically people that dress up like comic book superheroes and go out and fight crime on the streets, and I quickly became more and more intrigued by the idea of altruism and truly taking a stand for what you believe in.
I began following this one man, the Dark Guardian as he calls himself, on Facebook, out of pure interest.
He’s located right up in Manhattan, where he does the bulk of his patrolling. He’s also one of the co-founders of reallifesuperheroes.org, a website dedicated to people like himself, complete with tips, tutorials, blogs run by the heroes, and more relating to the movement. When I first told my friends about him, I was almost ridiculed for thinking he was cool, so I played along and joked about how silly he was. But of course that’s untrue, he’s one of the few people dedicating his life to doing good in his community, and that’s something I can’t help but admire. He just so happens to do it in a (badass) costume. But there’s more to it.
Remember when I said there aren’t very many people I look up to that I can think of? Well, one thing the Dark Guardian and I have in common is that we were both basically raised without a prominent father figure. My two older sisters married when I was young, and so it was just my mother and I for a while, until she decided to re-marry. Even so, my step-father wasn’t someone I looked up to. Not that he wasn’t a good person, but that we simply didn’t connect. Basically, I didn’t have anyone around to teach me how to be a man. I had to figure it all out for myself.
In that process, I grew a love for superheroes, just as the Dark Guardian did in the absence of that male mentor in his life. I have to give credit to my mother who instilled good values and proper judgement in me at a young age, but I have a feeling that most of what I’ve learned about how the world works and how to be a good person is all thanks to superheroes. Though I’m not a comic book reader, I love me a good superhero movie, probably more so than any other type of film. I think it all started with the original Spider-Man movie.
He’s just a kid who believes in doing the right thing despite his criticisms and his personal issues. It’s for that reason that I felt a strong connection to the character, because he seems so real. As a result, he’s hands-down my favorite superhero of all time. That’s basically the same vibe I get from the Dark Guardian. He’s as real as real gets, and I’m sure he has a life outside of his costume that he has to attend to. And yet he still makes time to go out patrolling the streets, spend his own money on supplies to donate to the needy, and to make people’s lives a little bit better. He has no other reason to do what he does but to make his community a better place, and I just love that about him.
In fact, when he first began “suiting up,” he helped in clearing out drug dealers from Washington Square Park. That in of itself is a huge accomplishment. He also helps out by handing out supplies to the homeless, running workshops for children on how to be heroes everyday, and essentially inspiring others to good in their communities. The initiative he shows is nothing short of empowering. According to his Facebook page, “There is a hero in everyone and if we would let it shine we would live a much better place.” There’s nothing untrue about that. Sure, you won’t find anybody with laser vision or swinging from buildings anytime soon, but why should that stop us from bettering our communities with the powers we do have?
Being in a leadership position here at Rutgers gives me the ability to better my community in ways that others can’t. That’s my super power. I’m not courageous enough to go running off into the night in spandex fighting crime, but I have no issue safely serving as a student leader. My goal in being a part of the Off-Campus Students’ Association (OCSA) is to make every commuter student feel as much a part of the Rutgers community as everyone else, and all of the time I dedicate to OCSA inches me closer to that goal. I believe that by being inclusive of commuter students, who make up more than half of the undergraduate population at Rutgers, we are inspiring a sense of community, and in turn we can empower that community and make Rutgers the best place it can be.