I grew up, like many boys stuck in the middle of nowhere always in the middle of nothing to do, watching a ton of superhero movies. I saw Captain America plunge himself into the Arctic; Spiderman kiss Mary Jane; the Avengers saving New York; Heath Ledger terrifying Gotham and millions of moviegoers; I even watched George Clooney try and act as Batman. For me the superhero world was an escape from the dull, tepid experience that was growing up in Malaysia. My life consisted of studying, eating, sleeping, and swatting mosquitoes away. A superhero's life involved saving the world, kissing the dream girl, and quipping clever one-liners to the applause of an audience.
Naturally as a young kid (and even now to a large extent) I wish I was a superhero. I wanted a ripped body. I wanted superhuman strength. I wanted a mortal enemy that I could do battle with in my spare time, instead of doing battle with the likes of stress and time management. But most of all, I wanted to save the day. I wanted to make millions feel safer, happier, and more inspired. To me, that's what being a hero meant. And I'm sure out there, there are millions of other who watch the big screens as their favourite Marvel character (or God forbid, DC) disappears into the distance and they think to themselves, "I wish I was a hero."
But as I grew up, finished my A levels, and entered university, such dreams of flying and criminal fighting gave way to the stark realisation that such sensationalist feats weren't the norm of the real world. Unfortunately in the real world, paper pushing and paychecks prevailed. There weren't any superheroes flying in the sky. And there weren't any villains plotting the world's demise.
But yet, as I grew up, I realised that heroes really did exist. They don't wear capes or spandex, though. You won't seeing them flying in the clouds, riding neon-coloured cars, or swinging across buildings.
Some of them wear stethoscopes, as they compress the chest of a dying child to keep them alive.
Some of them don a policemen's uniform and fight crime on the streets much like Batman, only without causing the millions in property damage.
Some travel the world, build homes, and help out underprivileged families in whatever way they can, for the same reason any hero does what they do - to make the world a better place.
Some become brave enough to tolerate a room full of kids in order to teach them and turn them into good people. And sometimes, they actually succeed.
Some risk their lives and fight for their homeland - against ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and other tyrannical organisations, the true evil villains of the world.
Some of them are super rich, but use their enormous wealth to make enormous changes. Bill Gates has saved more lives than Superman ever had, and Mr Gates didn't even have to look stupid while doing it.
But yet some others were dirt poor, but made enormous changes anyway because they wanted to and dared to try. Malala Yousafzai dared to fight for her right to education, nearly died in the process, kept fighting, won a Nobel Prize, and still keeps on fighting - all in the span of four short years.
Some heroes aren't famous, and never will be. Their work in thankless roles such as charity, public health, and humanitarian relief happen behind close doors and we will never know their names. But their contributions are no less invaluable.
And some heroes are like you and me. It's not hard to save the world, in a small way. Saying something nice to your friend to lift their spirits when the day's burdens weigh on them. Smile to a cashier who's been stressed from a busy shift. Compliment a co-worker who's done an excellent job. Drop some change into a homeless person's empty cup. These are small, little things that take much less effort than fighting off aliens. But in those small ways, you and I can make the world a better place.
So to all those flying angels, genetically-engineered freaks, and powered-up cyborgs that romp in our collective imagination; to Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Aquaman, Ironman, Flash, and all the other heroes I can't seem to the name at this time and place. We appreciate all your hard work and dedication. But I think we'll manage fine saving the world ourselves, thank you very much.