If I could talk to a 10-year-old Mike Rothman, I'd tell him that one day very soon, it will be beyond cool to be inspired by the comic books he loves so much.
I would tell him that all those days and nights spent reading and collecting Spider-Man, Captain America, X-Men and more would not only feed his imagination and help to get him through school (I'll get to that later), but would later be inspiration for some of his future work that he'll always be most proud of.
I'd also tell him to invent Facebook, but that's a story for another time.
The past 11 years covering and watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe grow has been one of the most surreal chapters in my life, especially as a journalist. The highs of watching characters I used to read and love hit the big screen was more than a rush, it was an affirming feeling that all this time, I was not alone. There were millions more just like me who also cherished these stories and adventures.
In fact, when I was a kid waiting in line at my local comic shop to get the Breaking of Batman or the latest issue of "Amazing Spider-Man," Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige was probably doing the exact same thing. So were the droves of other fans that have poured into the theaters over the last decade to see these films.
And here comes "Avengers: Endgame," the absolute culmination of this lofty, incomparable goal from Feige to unite all these weird, little, amazing worlds into one cinematic universe for all to enjoy.
I wouldn't dream of spoiling "Endgame," but I think it goes without saying that this culmination is also going to come with some tears. Like those that I shed watching this emotional film, realizing that all good things don't have to end, but they have to change and evolve.
There's also never been a better time to thank those involved in this universe for allowing me to dream again. ... like I did all those years ago.
To the 'original six' Avengers
Thank you Robert Downey Jr. for starting us on this crazy adventure in 2008. You are and always will be Iron Man.
From being the funniest, wittiest person in every room to delivering young boys and girls bionic arms, you have embodied everything this universe is and can be.
Your embrace of the fans at Comic Con (boy do you know how to work a crowd) is exactly the essence of what makes fandom and life so beautiful.
Thank you Chris Evans. Like Robert, you are a superhero on and off the big screen.
Your activism on social media, desire to always stand up for what's right and your work with young children battling cancer at Christopher's Haven is the essence of what Captain America stands for.
Officially wrapped on Avengers 4. It was an emotional day to say the least. Playing this role over the last 8 years has been an honor. To everyone in front of the camera, behind the camera, and in the audience, thank you for the memories! Eternally grateful.— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) October 4, 2018
Though fans know you had hesitations about taking the role and there are so many other things you have left to do in your career, looking back, there was no one else who could have filled Cap's boots through these initials stages of the MCU.
We are and have been blessed to have you as our Captain.
Thank you Scarlett Johansson for being a bada-- the second you stepped into "Iron Man 2" in 2010.
Before "Captain Marvel" earlier this year and "Wonder Woman" two years ago, both beacons of hope and empowerment, women of all ages around the world had you, the Black Widow, to inspire them.
No superpowers, but every bit as powerful and impactful as your male co-stars. Showing both girls AND boys that dedication and heart are sometimes all you need in life to be a hero.
Your character's story of redemption was also one anyone can and should relate to. I'm pretty sure the "red" in your ledger has been completely wiped out.
Thank you Mark Ruffalo, for though you may play an imposing, ferocious beast on screen, you are a gentle giant off it.
From using your platform to bring awareness to climate change, saving the planet and helping those in need, you are using you fame for good.
Being a part of the @Marvel family has been the trip of a lifetime. I could not have asked for a better team to spend the last seven years with. I can’t wait for you all to see the epic adventure that is #AvengersEndgame 💚 pic.twitter.com/z3oCPFwyQs— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) April 23, 2019
Thank you Chris Hemsworth. As Thor, you've only gotten better and better since first appearing on screen as the God of Thunder in 2011.
You're a scene stealer, plain and simple, who can make the audience both laugh and cry with his range.
Also, who would have ever expected Thor to be the comic relief? You've done Asgard proud my friend.
And finally, thank you Jeremy Renner, another acclaimed Oscar-nominee on this very stacked cast.
I can't say I was a Hawkeye fan coming in, but you certainly sold me. The ability to not take yourself so seriously, while playing a fiercely loyal character is something that's inspired not only myself, but all of your fans.
It's clear to see how much this run has meant to you.
To the rest of the cast and crew
To the Russo Brothers, thank you a thousand times for creating this very satisfying emotional rollercoaster, while juggling the orchestra of storylines you had to fit into these last two "Avengers" films.
Thank you Kevin Feige for taking this whole world so seriously as a true fan, not just a studio leader. One of my favorite stories I read about you was that in some of the earlier "X-Men" films, you advised the cast and crew just how high Wolverine's hair should be, if it was to be true to the books that inspired it. Only a real fan would care about fine details like that.
To Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Zoe Saldana, Chris Pratt and so many more, thank you as well!
To the next generation of Marvel superheroes
Thank you. I have no doubt that with her work in Time's Up, among other empowering organizations, Brie Larson will be the same inspiring leader off screen as she is on it as "Captain Marvel."
The same can be said for Chadwick Boseman, Tom Holland, Tessa Thompson and so many others who are rising stars in this universe.
The future of the MCU is in very good hands.
And last, but never least, thank you Stan Lee
As that 10-year-old boy growing up in Florida, I struggled in more ways than one.
In a story that is more common than I probably realize, I struggled in school, especially when it came to reading and writing. Ironic, I know.
My parents worked hard to hold my interest, while tutors and teachers just weren't the solution. Then I found comics.
My world opened up. Not only did I start to excel in school, but a creative bug had burrowed deep within me and is something that still influences me to this very day.
Decades and many years of schooling later (many years), go figure, I'm an entertainment reporter.
I can safely say this never would have happened if I hadn't been so affected by the storytelling and creativity in comic books.
So, thank you Stan for creating this beautiful, relatable world and all the heroes within it. You may be gone, but your legacy clearly lives on.
ABC News and Marvel are both part of parent company Disney.