Looking past the past
I went to see the “Spider-Man” the other night, and it got me thinking in my weird, disconnected sort of way.
I began to ponder what Spider-Man and Tonya Harding have in common, and no, this isn’t a childish riddle or a “Tonight Show” monologue-type joke.
What does your friendly neighborhood web-slinger and ice-skating’s infamous femme fatale have in common?
The answer is that they both had one moment in their lives – a few brief seconds – that would define their futures.
A radioactive spider bites Peter Parker, an average high school geek, giving him superhuman strength and the ability to climb walls and sense future danger. It couldn’t have taken more than a second to get bitten, but it altered the rest of his life.
Tonya Harding’s life, athletic career, goals, home, family, friends and love life was changed in a more notorious way when her boyfriend and his acquaintance blackjacked Nancy Kerrigan’s knee during an ice skating practice. Everything from that moment on, every failure, every triumph, and every mention of Harding’s name would be tainted by her decision to do nothing to stop the two men.
Which makes me feel sorry for both Spider-Man (even though I know he’s just a fictional character) and Harding.
How many times have we all made a mistake and our family and friends have eventually forgiven us or learned to just ignore our error in judgment. What would it be like if one day we did something, either good or bad, and it was brought up again and again like bad meatloaf?
Take, for instance, a young guy who accidentally poops his pants. Say that one day this guy got scared – well, he got really scared, and he just couldn’t hold it. Can you imagine spending the rest of your life being known as poopy-pants Johnson or Smith? Hearing people whisper about you at job interviews or in restaurants and cafes, “There goes poopy-pants,” and knowing that for the rest of your lifespan, you will always be known as the guy that pooped in his pants.
The same goes, I think, for those who have a major triumph in life only to be saddled like a beaten plow horse with that one great success.
A writer who writes just one great book, a singer who has one mega hit, a sports hero who competes in and wins only one Olympic medal, can end up just as destroyed as someone who does something stupid and wrong.
Life is full of goals and pitfalls, triumphs and tragedies, days when you’re the windshield and days when you’re the bug. It’s life’s progression, its ups and downs, that make it exciting and the accomplishments, when they come, even greater. If one day you woke up to find you were the bug, and no matter what else happened in your life, you would always be remembered as the bug, you might actually become a bug.
Life should have many moments of truth, not just one.
So the next time you’re in your favorite local watering hole and you run into Bill, the town drunk, or Kathy, the town tramp, try to remember a time when maybe your nickname was “Booger” because someone caught you picking your nose. Instead of dragging up the past, just think of them as Bill and Kathy. Or Peter and Tonya.
People can change, and some mistakes – and even some triumphs – should be forgiven and, better yet, forgotten.
Andrew Gmerek is a weekly columnist for the Summit Daily News.
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