An excerpt from my book, A True Origin Story – How To Be A Real Life Superhero In 12 Steps
If you could become something other than who/what you are now and bring that new you out onto the streets to try to make a difference in the world, would you do it?
To be honest, I didn’t really want to “reinvent” anything. I just wanted to be a better version of the person I already was. And who was I before this RLSH bomb was dropped on my doorstep? Pretty much the same person I am right now, only less busy.
I was born in the Philippines to an Irish-Filipino father and a Spanish-Filipino mother. Dad was in the Navy and when he met mom, it was craziness at first sight. They loved each other, but most of their relationship was crazy. We moved to the United States when I was two. They divorced when I was 16. I lived with mom and all my life I was exposed to my mother’s generosity and compassion. I still call my mother the “O.G. RLSH.” Our couches were never free of relatives and friends needing a place to stay or a hand up. My mom would feed anyone who was hungry and help anyone who needed it. I grew up in a household that knew how to share whatever little we had.
I grew up, went to school, got married to the wrong guy, had a couple of beautiful kids and got divorced 10 years later. I went back to school, went to work, tried to be both mom and dad to my kids, and eventually met another guy. Thankfully, this time, he was the right one. We had another great kid and I spent my days driving a commuter train, managing bouncers at SF’s oldest nightclub, managing a day spa and taking care of my family. If you were to do a background check, you’d be pretty bored with the results. I’m no angel, but I’m pretty tame when it comes to scandal. I have no criminal record, I’m honest and I try to be fair to everyone. Even my ex-husband tells people that he’s got nothing bad to say about me. I’m outgoing, I make friends easily and I’m loyal to a fault. Let’s stop and think about this for a second- if someone’s claiming to be a “Real Life Superhero,” wouldn’t you want him or her to be honest and true? Wouldn’t you want to know that they represent the good side of humanity? Believe it or not, I know several people who call themselves “RLSH,” yet continue to be substance abusers, unfaithful spouses, deadbeat dads, and terrible liars. No, you don’t have to be perfect to want to help your fellow man, and you obviously don’t have to be a good citizen to wear the RLSH label, but when your messy lifestyle affects your ability to do anything other than talk trash on the internet, you should really re-think claiming the title of Real Life Superhero. Too many RLSH ignore fixing the problems in their real lives only to put all their energy into their superhero persona. They think that they can compartmentalize, but the truth is, when your real life is imbalanced, it starts to show in your attempts at hero work. I’ve seen it a hundred times.
Those that interview us always ask if there was a single event that I could point to that started me down this path. (Interviewers are always looking for that one movie moment.) Unfortunately, the impetus or my origin wasn’t the result of one specific event, but rather, the culmination of several. I’ve been through some personal horror – abuse, molestation as a child, homelessness, the murders of two friends … some pretty horrific shit. Thankfully, those tragedies, those negative experiences strengthened my resolve to not let the same things happen to anyone I knew, or to myself, ever again.
All my previous jobs, my life experiences – it took some time, but I now understand that they’d all been preparing me for this part of my life.
The one thing that’s remained a constant is the desire to do something. I got that from my mother and there’s really no way to get away from it. She was always taking food baskets to hungry friends and relatives, loaning money she didn’t have (with no expectation of repayment), and going out of her way to help strangers. This heritage of caring, paired with those aforementioned negative experiences, is where I draw much of my energy today. If you see me on the street, I look no different from anyone else, but under my clothing, I’m always wearing that invisible “S” on my chest. If someone needs help, and I’m able to give it, you can be damned sure I will help. That might sound corny, but if I’ve ever come to your aid, you know that I mean what I say.
So back to the original question – If you could become something other than who/what you are now and bring that new you out onto the streets to try to make a difference in the world, would you do it?
Let’s start smaller.
If you could change your name to something fun, something cool, something that’s supposed to represent your beliefs, and sounds slightly superhero-ish, what would you change it to?
Takes a while, doesn’t it? It took me two minutes to come up with a name, and then a week to question my choice. During interviews I’m always asked the same question first: Why did you choose the name Rock N Roll? For me, it was simple: I’ve been a musician all my life. I ride a motorcycle. I believe in solid foundations and I believe in letting things flow on their own. I’m also a martial artist/instructor and a certified massage therapist (CMT). How could I come up with anything more fitting than “Rock N Roll”? And to be frank, there were enough RLSH out there with names blatantly borrowed from other comic-book characters.
I wanted to be called something familiar, yet different for a female RLSH. Also, I didn’t want my name to convey a false sense of bravado or skill. I wasn’t about to call myself “Katana Vigilante,” “Night Ninja,” or “Justice Star.” “Mr. Stab Man” was right out. I wanted my new name to reflect exactly who I believed I was and what I was doing here in the first place. Rock N Roll is non-threatening, it’s familiar. Rock N Roll can be both a thing and an action. Rock N Roll is most definitely musical and can be hard, soft, or just plain fun. Today, after almost five years in this “business,” I can’t think of a better name for my RLSH persona.
Since we already knew that we were going to do most of our patrols on the bike, I knew that my superhero costume needed to be made of leather. But wearing a helmet to public events? Nah, that’s not for me. After much search and consideration, I put it off and decided to use one of my older photos for my profile. The photo, which shows me posing with my guitar and wearing sunglasses, worked well to keep my identity slightly secure (well, as secure as you can be nowadays).
Then I shined up my bike, embraced this new personality, and got ready to “go public.” Personally, I think this is one of the most exciting-albeit-nerve wracking parts of the process. Will people welcome you or laugh at you? Or both?
Since Facebook was the best way to connect in 2011, I created a profile for the new Ms. Rock N Roll, added the letters RLSH to my name and then waited for the friend requests to pour in. Believe it or not, they did! There were far fewer RLSH out there than there are today (or as I like to call it, “B.K.A. – Before Kick Ass”), and we really did try to seek each other out. With a brief public intro from Bug, I was meeting new RLSH every day. That was the easy part.
The hard part came right at the start, as I knew that if I were to claim the title of Real Life Superhero, I’d have to do my best to become and uphold the standard that I’d expect to see associated with it. Again, this is not as common as you’d think.
Turns out, it was so easy to be Rock N Roll. She was all of the things that I liked about myself, without all of the baggage that I’d wanted to unload anyway. I knew that I was probably older than a lot of the people that were joining the RLSH movement; I told myself that it’s imperative to set a good example, if I wanted to respect myself in the morning. Like I said, at the beginning, this was easy.
When I first joined the community, I was understandably overwhelmed — there were so many people already on board. I felt like a newbie, but only for a while. People were out there posing with weapons, fighting with others, trying to sell their looks (many used stock photos as fake profile pics), and there were the delusional ones who actually believed that they were endowed with super powers, or above the law. It didn’t take long to see that there weren’t a lot of mature women around. There were plenty of younger women who took part in the aforementioned, but not many that were actually doing the work, and doing it consistently or effectively. Nor were there a lot of women trained in defense, de-escalation, community emergency response, or even CPR. There were men of all ages, beliefs and qualifications, but only a handful of women and even less who weren’t in it looking for companionship. It’s changed, thankfully, but it’s taken years.
When I started out as Rock, I would only post encouraging, positive, or informative updates on my profile page. I avoided the drama and I thought about joining Bug’s team. I looked for others who thought and sounded like me in this regard. If I could meet others who were pure of motive and action, I knew we could change the world, beginning with our own little communities.
Speaking of our communities, where could we help? How could we help? Do we tell our local police about us? Do we tell anyone about us? What about our families? What were they going to do when they find out that we lead a double life? Would they feel as deceived as I did when I found out about Bug? Would they think we were just crazy? I had so many questions, but this wasn’t an easy subject to discuss with non-RLSH. I wanted to reach out and chat with other like-minded people, so I started to seek out gatherings in my area.
That’s when I discovered Project HOPE. But more about that in Step 5 …
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Thanks for reading!