When I was a kid, I loved superheroes. Spider-Man was a serious favorite, and I often fantasized about getting bitten by a radioactive spider so that I, too, might be able to gleefully propel myself from building to building, scale walls, anticipate danger with my “Spidey” sense, and halt bullies in their tracks with webs I could shoot out from my hands at will.
I also really loved The Incredible Hulk, another superhero that inspired many childhood fantasies (often vengeful ones!). I don’t know that I particularly hoped for exposure to excessive gamma radiation, but I definitely wished to be transformed into a figure of brute strength and intimidating physical presence whenever I was really angry or was, by my own estimation, treated unfairly or pushed too far.
I have a distinct memory of playing outside my house one afternoon by myself with a large Incredible Hulk action figure in hand (I was maybe 8 or 9?) and being struck by a harsh realization. It didn’t take the most powerful skills of observation in the world to notice that no adult I had ever met was nearly as excited about The Hulk as I was. It dawned on me that someday I, too, would care little (or perhaps even not at all!) about The Hulk. I loved The Hulk so much, and yet it seemed like I was almost certainly destined to be stripped of my enthusiasm for him. I felt a brief but profound sadness, a loss, even a sort of grief over this. I felt like it didn’t matter how strong or pure or true my love was for all-things-Hulk, and it didn’t matter what vow or promise I made to myself or my notorious, fictional green friend – adulthood would take over and that would be that.
Some years later, reflecting back on that moment, I realized the true meaning of the powerful feeling I experienced. It was not my future loss of interest in The Hulk that I truly feared. What saddened me was the prospect of losing that priceless feeling of intense affinity for something – of losing my passion. I later understood that the object(s) of one’s passion can change over the course of a lifetime, but that the loss of passion altogether is something that would truly be worth mourning. My pre-pubescent self travels through time and space to remind me of this from time to time.