I am still recovering from a heart-attack scare, and as a part of my regimen of rest and fluids, I watched the DVD of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty starring and directed by Ben Stiller. It is a brilliant piece of film art in my opinion. The basic story is about a day-dreaming ne’er-do-well who is so much like I once was that it is practically an unauthorized biography. Mitty daydreams and pines over a co-worker that he is afraid to introduce himself to. He works at Life Magazine at a time when the printed periodical was going out of business. His job is on the line. Then, he loses a photograph from a famous photographer when he has never made such an error before. To correct his mistake, he goes on a world-hopping quest to find the photographer, visiting Greenland, jumping into the ocean from a helicopter, fighting a shark, escaping from an erupting volcano in Iceland, climbing a mountain in the Himalayas, and finally, getting fired for not finding it, though he does find it, and proves he is more competent and brave and daring and heroic than even his daydreams told him that he was. At the end he even gets the girl. It made me cry to realize how much my life was like that. It has been a comedy of errors compounded by the criticism and negativity of the world around me. I fought hard to be a competent teacher. I had to become an advocate for kids. I fought for the good of the students against principals, parents, the State of Texas, three school administrations, politicians, and sometimes even the students themselves. I rose to new heights during my darkest hours. I made a difference. A lot of kids came back to tell me I was their favorite teacher, that they learned things and remembered things from my class more than any of their other classes. I know some of them were lying for sentimental reasons, but not all of them were. So I was, in the end, a success. I had my Walter Mitty moments.
So what is the point of all of this, and of the picture of my messy studio which is also my bedroom and sickroom? If I had died from the heart attack rather than finding out it wasn’t really a heart attack, I would still be successful in the course of my life and career. Three beautiful and intelligent children with my genetic stamp… more than 2,500 students educated and served… thirty-one years of faithful teachering… like Walter Mitty, I have been worth so much more than I have ever been given credit for. And yet… and yet… I am not finished. I am only now coming into my real magical powers over words and ideas. I am only now reaching out and saying what treasures are truly in my heart for all to take away and enrich themselves with. Some of it is in the books I have written. Some of it is in the blog I am here making available to you. I am not bragging. I am old and in pain and very near the end… but I still have love to give… and laughter… and life. Please, help yourself to it while you may. I am not done yet.