Peter Pan and Spider-Man have had a huge influence on my life. I owe a lot of my personal growth and development to both characters and I’m not sure what state me or my life would be in without them. For as long as I can remember now, I have had a similar conversation with those I meet. It is usually some combination of words about how I look like either of the characters or act very much like them. Honestly, it is one of the best compliments I have ever got and I never trier of hearing it. Those who make those comments are typically thrilled to know that I am obsessed with both characters. Often a reveal of the Peter Pan or Spider-Man shirt I am wearing under my hoodie gets a positive reaction.

Now let me answer why and try to provide some justification for my obsession. It is probably best to look at each character individually. Let’s start with Peter Pan purely for alphabetical reasons.

There are multiple quotes from Peter Pan which by themselves are inspirational. Points to any readers who can number the number that appears in this post by the end, most will be paraphrased.

I have never looked or really acted my age, I still don’t and hopefully never will. I have a full Peter Pan complex. I only fully realised this and started leaning towards it during my first summer at Camp Wise, the summer camp in America I have spent the past 4 summers at. A group of campers would only refer to me as Peter Pan and as things usually go with camp, I went along with it for the summer and beyond. Must admit this was a great move.

One big thing about Peter is that he sees everything in living and even dying as an adventure. Not everything I do in my life is a great adventure, 9am lectures for example, but living my life seeking adventure has kept it interesting. After that first summer, I search for more adventures and I found them. I have traveled across Europe whilst getting paid, had some of the most enjoyable jobs using my imagination to bring characters to life and create story with children at my current place of work Nickelodeon and my previous at Noodle Performing Arts, and returning back to where it all started, Camp Wise, a fair few times. These jobs for a sensible person have helped fund my studies, however, they are not your typical student part-time jobs and I love that, I don’t see work as a chore, I like what I do and that is the secret to happiness.

Peter loves stories, especially when they’re about himself, so I thought I would share a story with you that features faith, trust and a bit of pixie dust. In my second year at Camp Wise, I had the honour of being a captain for Maccabiah, a huge 48 event of competitions that combines all the best elements of camp. The entire camp is split into 5 teams with 2 captains on each team and 5 judges and there is a theme. As luck would have it the theme this session was Peter Pan, I was told the day before I was captain of the green team, as I was dressed up as Peter Pan for a Disney dinner, a total coincidence. Unfortunately, the judges were Peter Pan and the green team was Tinkerbell. Shout out to my co-captain Reagan. The judges put their faith and trust in Reagan and me, it was time for us to do the same with our team. Our faith and trust were rewarded in one of our more difficult times over the 48 hours. As part of the competition, the teams face off in the great race, a race that goes all across camp featuring numerous activities, ending in the captains building a fire to burn a piece of rope. This was concerning for Reagan and I, the fire building newbs, and we didn’t start off great, our team were the last to the rope burn and for the life of us we could not start a fire. We tried everything matches, lighters, and blowtorches, the last two were not part of the rules and I think they were given to us out of sympathy, what could have been a total disaster actually ended up being one of my fondest memories of camp and maybe my life. One of our cheers was “I do believe in fairies I do I do” and after repeating that multiple times I have to say that I do I do believe in fairies. As we were trying everything to build our fire, we could hear our team getting louder and louder with this cheer. The cheer sounded different though, it was the kids and fellow staff had started cheering “I do believe in Reagan, I do I do, I do believe in Fraser I do, I do” honestly if it wasn’t for the heat of the fire dehydrating my eyes and the fear of putting the fire out with my tears, I would have been balling, this faith, trust, and pixie dust helped Reagan and I pull through and finally burn that rope.

I have enjoyed working with children because they too embody the same traits as myself and Peter Pan, in many ways they are my lost boys and girls, especially the ones who first donned me as Peter Pan.

One of my biggest fear is getting old. I have told you my favourite thing to hear, now for the least. It is any variation of being called “the man”. Some examples include “go to “the man””, “let’s stand by “the man””, “watch out for “the man”, you get the idea. Just the thought of being “the man” sends me in a spiral. I am, have and fingers crossed will always be a boy. Filled with a sense of adventure, the power of imagination, and the ability to fly I don’t want to lose this by becoming a cynical man, doubting whether I can fly, knowing once that happens I will cease to ever be able to. In short, I don’t want to be a man.

Spider-Man holds similar characteristics to Peter Pan. Unlike Peter Pan I have had the privilege to be Spider-Man. My time as Pan will come soon, I am sure. As a character party host for noodle performing arts, I would get to visit birthday boys and girls as Spider-Man and play party games with them as part of their superhero training. Nothing can quite match the look in a child’s eyes when they see their hero up close. It is a special feeling, especially when I consider my own journey of discovery and development with Spidey.

I started training to be a professional wrestler at the age of 15. As already established, I have never looked my age, so when I started training, I probably looked about 10 years old. At that time young trainees were few and far between, it was always a pleasant surprise when you found someone relatively close to your age. The scene was, for the most part, a man’s world, and I was just a boy.

This was when I first started looking at Spidey as more than a cool character in comics, tv, and film, I saw him as a role model. Spidey like me is a boy in a man’s world. He is a teenage superhero in a world with The Avengers. This helped me come to terms with the fact I am not like the other wrestlers, but that’s good because I am my own unique character, I stand out. Before this discovery and before seeing Tom Holland’s live-action version of Spidey I suffered massively with body dysmorphia/complex issues. I wanted to “look like a wrestler”. Right now, I don’t think I could tell you what a wrestler looks like. Perhaps that was the overlying issue. Either way, I had a problem, one I have only recently started to come to terms with. This isn’t to say I am completely over it though. In the past I would obsess on what to eat, what not to, how much I needed to do at the gym. If I ate one thing I would believe I was fat, if I didn’t eat enough of somethings I would believe I was too skinny, similarly in the gym I would feel fat, skinny or the worst skinny fat (I can’t even begin to go into what this toxic mess means) if I didn’t go enough. It consumed my life. The worst part was this was being egged on, enforced and encouraged by my peers. I still don’t “look like a wrestler”, I never have and never will, but you know who I do look like … Spider-Man.

Seeing Tom Holland’s Spidey helped me start my journey towards overcoming these unreal expectations and issues with my body. When I saw his body, I saw mine or what mine can be on a good day. I was never going to look like Hulk Hogan, John Cena or The Rock, but Spidey that is an achievable goal and honestly, he’s way cool then those three, in my opinion. I still eat like a bit of a health freak, however I am less OC about it then I used to be. I will still refuse most sweets or “unhealthy” snacks, mostly because after years of not having them I don’t really cave or want them. I still workout, I found CrossFit which has helped hugely with this process. No longer am I restricted to a week plan of days working individual body parts fearful if I have done enough for each of them, trying to cram them all into a week. Now I am part of a community of friends with the help of coaches we learn new skills and keep developing them, the focus is always on improving. I workout for joy and betterment now rather than fear and stress. My body issues aren’t over but they are much better now thanks to Spider-Man.

I owe a lot not only to these characters but their creators too. Both JM Barrie and Stan Lee are role models I look up to and wish I had the chance to meet. Their personalities are so akin to their characters, Stan Lee was the little guy looking out for the little guy and JM Barrie was truly the boy who never grew up. I am so grateful for them for sharing their creativity and bringing these characters to life.

My hope is to return the favour in a small way to both these creators and characters. My New Decade resolution, chosen over New Year so I have 10 years rather than one, was to play or “be friends with” the characters at a Disney park or cruise to bring the creators characters to life and inspire others like how I have been. I also have a plan for a tattoo of both one on each foot, a painful plan I have been made aware of.

To keep up to date with these goals and plans feel free to follow me on Instagram, after reading this post my username probably makes almost too much sense, @Spider_Pan_. Remember this isn’t goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting, instead it is time for us to swing our web to the second star to the right and straight on till morning to the next adventure.

Peter Pan, Spider-Man and Me