Or what Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse taught me about growing up.
I work remotely 99% of the time and I have a home office dedicated for that purpose, but sometimes, nothing beats working off the couch while videos play on the TV in background.
I love watching shows and movies. And if there is even a hint of the supernatural or sci-fi involved, count me all the way in. I will not only watch the shows, I will also spend days watching YouTube videos about those shows.
Weeks ago, I’m working and half-watching this video essay about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse…and it blows my mind.
As I put my mind back together over the next few days, I can’t shake the epiphany and I realise I just have to write about it.
So yes, I’m about to pull some life lessons from an animated Spider-Man movie.
But first, let’s go over the story quickly.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is about Miles Morales, a black teen boy who gets bitten by a radioactive spider, witnesses the death of the original Spider-Man and then has to work with other Spider-People to save the multiverse.
Some of the major themes in the movie are the evolution of identity and the trials and tribulations of coming of age. Our main protagonist, Miles is going through a bit of an identity crisis. He is stuck in that uncomfortable transition between who he used to be and who he is becoming. He is being thrust forward reluctantly, by time, by his parents expectations, by his new environment, by the radioactive spider-bite.
What he really wants to do, is stay comfortable, to regress. He feels out of his element in his new private school, so he tries to flunk out. He would rather be home with his friends in Brooklyn. He feels the weight of ‘great expectations’ and chooses to duck and avoid it.
But the spider bite happens and he is forced into this new reality.
He has to be Spider-Man. He has to save the world. But he is just a kid, and sure, he wants to do the right thing but he has no idea how to be Spider-Man. The one perfect Spider-Man mentor, the one with all the answers and keys, the one who promised to hold his hand through it all, was just pummelled to death by Kingpin.
It is Peter B Parker, a depressed, jaded, divorced, gut having, pizza eating, bathtub crying Spider-Man from an alternate dimension who becomes his reluctant mentor. And a bunch of other alternate Spider-People…(including a Spider-Pig) who enter the plot to help our buddy cop duo save the world.
But Miles is still out of his depth. He has to not only learn to control his new powers but also save the world. Big problem. He does not know how.
He does not know how to be Spider-Man. He doesn’t know how to grow up, how to take up this responsibility. He is not ready to be Spider-Man because he has not yet crossed the threshold.
He has not let go. Of his fear, of his anxieties, of his fear of the unknown.
There is an emotional scene where he is forced to stay back while the other Spider-People go to confront the villain, because he’s really still more of a liability than an asset at this point. Miles asks his mentor ‘when will I know I’m ready’. To which Peter B Parker tells Miles that ‘you won’t, it is a leap of faith, that’s all it is Miles, a leap of faith’.
He doesn’t need to be perfect, he doesn’t need to be Peter Parker’s version of Spiderman, He just needs to give in to the moment and be himself.
This resonated with me.
And since then, it has been growing on me.
This idea of crossing the threshold.
I am Miles. I rail against time internally all the time.
I am 31 now. I remember being 26, I remember being 28. I look in the mirror and I see how my face and body changes over time in subtle ways. I wish I could freeze time in my 20s. I wish I could be forever young.
Because I am afraid to grow old. I love the potential of the blank canvas and I cling to that for a long time. I am afraid of painting and messing it up. I am afraid to grow up and fail.
And so I avoid the threshold.
And there have been many of them, in different areas of my life. Places where I don’t take the step forward.
I am good at doing everything I need to do to prepare and then not doing the thing.
But time moves anyway. The clock is always ticking.
And at some point I can’t remain at the edge anymore.
I have to take the leap of faith.
I have to jump.
I have to be in the moment and let things unfold as they may. I have to close my eyes and dance, let the music and rhythm of life take me forward.
I always looked at my 20s as the best time of my life. I was young. my body is at its peak. Metabolism is on fire. The responsibilities are few. I did as much as I can to stay in this state. And not move forward.
I think I developed this aversion because I have seen too many people cross the thresholds in a cavalier way. Or in a mindless way. We do things because that is the way they are done. Few stop to ask why they must be done, how many ways they could be done, and in what circumstances should they not be done.
I think I just wanted to make sure I was crossing the threshold effectively, maximizing my chances for future pleasure and success. To mitigate pain.
But the truth is. It is good to learn, and place yourself in the position to succeed. But no mater how much you learn, you will always make some sort of mistake. It is just the nature of the human experience. Our knowledge always comes with blindspots innate to it. For every illumination of light, there is the darkness of shadows cast.
We must prep the best we can, and then fling ourselves off the ledge.
It is time to cross the thresholds.
In the movie, Miles crosses the threshold from a state of being unsure, and learning and looking for validation and guidance to a state of embracing his new identity and circumstance.
He lets go of the past, and his worry of the future, and embraces the present. He embraces what makes him unique and comes into his own as his own version of Spider-Man, a hiphop-bumping, graffiti-tagging, Jordans-wearing Spider-Man. Joining his friends, saving the world and embracing his destiny.
Because, it is not about who you think you are supposed to be, or what you think you are supposed to be doing. It is about where you are now. And the symphony of life you are going to make right where you stand.