I have always felt compelled to do something great, be something great. That I would amount to nothing unless I did something significant. Blame it on the psychology of being a middle child, or that I wasn’t hugged enough as a kid. Whatever the reason, my search for greatness began before I was even a teenager. I have always had an innate, burning desire to do more & be more to achieve greatness.
If you haven’t seen the movie, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” then you need to go purchase it. Do not rent the movie, buy it. I relate to him on many levels: he is a quirky, single adult who is passionate about his work. He gets carried away with his imagination, being catapulted from the boring-everyday-encounters into a dreamlike adventure. He is unable to differentiate those dreams from reality, which causes him to be bullied by his boss, coworkers, & family. I remember going to see this movie with my best friend on January 1, 2014. I remember the day vividly, as I had gotten a tattoo of the Christian cross on my left hand the day before, in light of seeking God’s will for me in the upcoming years. I wanted a daily reminder that no matter how difficult life became, that a greater purpose was being served in Jesus’s name. A reminder that personal suffering is a price I pay in grateful reverence for a reward that money cannot buy: salvation.
At the theatre with Tiffany on January 1, watching the character of Walter Mitty evolve, I must have cried at least a dozen times. I saw myself in Walter then & I see myself in Walter now. Every time I watch the movie, I cannot possibly hold back my emotions. I’m watching the movie now as I write this post, & I had to cease writing to take in moments of silence when reacting to certain dialogue & scenes. I know the plot, I know the characters, I know every detail, I can direct quote at least half of the movie (if not the entire script), I know how the movie ends, & yet the story continues to strike a sensitive chord, sending chills down my spine & standing up the hairs on my arm. Watching it repeatedly always feels like I am watching it for the first time.
After seeing the cinematic masterpiece for the first time in theaters in 2014 & watching through the credits, I remember exclaiming that I just wanted to travel, take photographs, & write a book about the adventure. The evolution of that remark, in hindsight, only fills me with more hope for the future, because I now wake up every morning, still in disbelief that I am traveling & taking photographs. I am doing what I set out to do on that first day of January, grateful that Tiffany has always believed in that dream & that I had the courage to seek it. I remember that January 1, 2014 was just four days after I filed for divorce. January 1, 2014 was just three months after my hike on the Barr Trail in Colorado Springs, the hike that changed my life. I reference my divorce frequently, because that is the catalyst that set the rest of my life in motion. That was the life changing decision that made me choose whether I was going to settle or set myself free.
I set myself free. None of my existence now would be of any value without having first experienced such intense, personal suffering. Having a grateful attitude in all things, with hope for tomorrow & the promises of the future, is the backbone to my life’s philosophy. I do not have any hatred in my heart for any one of my failed relationships, because each of those societally-deemed “failures” have, in some way, formed a vision & purpose in my life.
Here’s the thing about Walter Mitty that I want you to remember: he believed that he wasn’t great, based solely on the way in which other people treated him. Relying on the approval of other people above your own self-approval is a toxic formula for living. He was shy, reserved, quiet. He felt like a loser, living safely within the confines of his apartment & his work office. He was vigilant in his work, despite it being overlooked. He was deemed an ordinary man. Hold your breath & keep watching the movie.
My favorite scene is when Walter makes the decision to find Sean O’Connell, the photojournalist who he believes has the negative for the final cover of Life magazine (think pre-dSLR cameras here, guys). This decision was Walter’s catalyst. The dramatic music begins to play & Walter moves in slow motion from walking to running, going down a hallway decorated with large formatted past-covers of Life. The magazine’s motto begins to appear, cleverly incorporated into the background of each scene as he runs down the hallway, purchases a plain ticket, & boards his flight to Iceland:
“To see the world,
Things dangerous to come to,
To see behind walls,
To draw closer,
To find each other,
And to feel…
That is the purpose of life.”
Here is the truth: Walter Mitty had always been great, but he had to seek & find the greatness in himself, on his own. My “innate, burning desire to do more & be more to achieve greatness” that I spoke of earlier is exactly the reason why I love “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. He found himself & unleashed his greatness. Despite the story being a fictional tale, the message parallels the journey I have taken in finding myself. “Greatness” has different meanings for each of us, we all have different dreams & desires. For me, in having the opportunities to travel, take photographs, & share my story, I have found & achieved greatness for myself. My hope & prayer is that you are able to open yourselves up to seeking & achieving greatness on your terms. Do not set limits for yourself. Do not think of all the ways you can fail. Take the journey, fly or fall, & see where you land.