Origin story

Origin story

Infected by various glimpses and whispers around the Internet, I was compelled today to sit through the nearly two-hour finale of Smallville. I gave up on this teen-dramafied retooling of the Superman origin story in the early part of its fourth season, while I was still in college. In the years since, I was always startled to discover that it was still going (limping)—but I never cared enough to tune back in. The show had changed (weakened), or perhaps it was just me who had changed (matured…I think).

But a tenth-season series finale, with cameos of former cast members and John Williams’ iconic music, was enough to reel me in to see how they capped off an overripe show that had meant so much to me in high school. I won’t say much about the finale—which epitomized both the show’s strengths and its weaknesses—except that it provided an odd sort of closure to the high school me, and shuttled my thoughts back to that old self.

Madeleine L’Engle said that we are comprised of who we were at every age, so that I am still (partially) a little boy and a teenager and a young man. I don’t look back all that fondly on the me of high school years, but there were so many things that happened and ways that I developed during that wet cement stage of my life that it is hard to ignore how significant its contribution was to who I am as a human being.

I fed on a show like Smallville during high school because all of its teenage angst, hunger for romance, depiction of family values and the parent/child relationship—that was my life. It simultaneously resonated with my experience and planted the seeds of desire for something bigger and better. Some of it was just the (embarrassing) reenactment so characteristic of my personality; I wore hard yellow boots and flannel shirts in an attempt to be like Clark Kent. But it went deeper than that. I longed to be powerful and attractive. I longed to be important. I had quite a low opinion of myself, and a burning desire to be liked; I clung to the icon of a likable, Abercrombie-model superman like a life raft. I think I even, in my darkest times, longed to be good. Despite its Dawson’s Creek kitsch and melodrama, Smallville mirrored and shaped who I was and what I was turning into.

All of the bands I thirstily soaked up and movies I adored in high school got absorbed into that wet cement of youth, and for better or worse had a role in sculpting my personality. Now that I’m married, independently living “real life,” and closer to 30 than to 20, I’ve outgrown a lot of those things (thank God) and developed an appetite for new stories and new songs. But just like Clark learned in the Smallville finale (here comes the Hallmark card moral!), I do well to accept and live with the things and people that made me what I am…as I look ahead to embracing the destiny of who I’m to be.