I love going to the movies! There’s just something about having buttered movie popcorn, candy, and Coke for dinner that makes life worth living. Last night, I went to see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and I found myself vacillating between feeling melancholy for brief periods to grinning like an idiot for the rest of the time. The Secret Life struck a very deep chord for me – and I think maybe for a lot of other people as well.
I don’t want to ruin the movie for you – so if you plan to see it and you haven’t, you may want to wait to read this post. I’m interested to know if it affects you the same way – so come back and tell me. Let me just touch up my makeup for a moment while you decide if you want to read on.
Still here? OK – don’t say I didn’t warn you! I’ll try not to give TOO much away – and I imagine that if you’ve seen the trailers, you already know that Walter Mitty is a timid sort of a gentleman who lives alone, loves from afar, and is unappreciated in his job. But Walter has an active imagination and daydreams himself an exciting and heroic life…until one day circumstances push him to make the decision to do something that seems crazy, impulsive, and foolish – something he never thought he would actually do.
There is a scene in the movie where Water has to get on a very small helicopter with a very drunk pilot. At first, he sensibly refuses – because his quest is not worth his life. But then he has an epiphany of sorts and he leaps onto the helicopter at the last moment. Ben Stiller does SUCH a great job in that moment of conveying how Walter is feeling about this decision – terrified, elated, in shock, hardly able to believe that he actually did what he just did – that he was literally able to “make the leap”. That is when the real adventure starts and Walter, time and time again, finds himself doing things he has only imagined – but really living life for the first time in a very long time.
Have you ever been driving – probably to work or to run errands – and you just want to KEEP DRIVING? You don’t really care where or how far – you just want to drive until you can’t stay awake or you run out of gas money? Maybe you’ll get a job in a little diner for a few weeks or months, meeting interesting people and being anonymous until you earn enough money to drive some more – to the next place and adventure.
Have you ever wanted to go up to the bus or airline ticket counter and thrust money at them and say, “Where would this take me?” – and then just GO? Because the destination wasn’t as important as the adventure? As the chance to get away from REAL life and all of the worries, frustrations, cares, and expectations that come with it?
Have you ever visited a charming town far from your home and thought, “I would love to live here!” Have you ever dreamed of just staying there – renting an apartment and getting whatever job you can to support yourself while you explore, learn the language and culture, and find yourself?
The fantasy of just leaving and having a grand adventure is so tempting – but then real life intrudes and reminds you that there are spouses, children, and other family who depend on you, a mortgage to pay, and that it is necessary to keep your job in order to pay the bills. Your pants feel tight, your back aches, you notice your gray roots are growing in and you feel old and out of shape – but instead of motivating you to live your crazy dreams while you still have time, it makes you afraid – because what if you make that leap and then discover it was a terrible mistake? That instead of starting you on an exciting journey, that drunk helicopter pilot ends up crashing into the sea?
I don’t know if I’ll ever have the courage to make that huge leap of faith that Walter did – but I’m going to take baby steps. I’ll take a new class, make a new friend, take myself out of my comfort zone and try something that seems a bit crazy or foolish. I may never hike the Himalayas or wrestle a shark, but maybe I’ll gain some courage and confidence and then – you never know!