What Mitty Teaches

I have never been a big movie-buff. I can watch a terrible, low budget, movie and still enjoy it. I can really watch almost any movie (unless it is based on a book, and is butchered.) That being said, I do not usually enjoy watching movies more than once or twice. One of my new favorite movies is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013). When this movie comes on TV I usually end up watching it, even if I had just seen it the day before, and I am currently listening to the sound track as I write this. As I was watching it again, for the possibly 10th time, I wondered at what in this movie spoke to me in such a way that I, apparently, could not get tired of it?

I think this movie speaks to those who grew up and lost a part of themselves in the process. In today’s society we are taught to have realistic expectations?to seek high paying employment regardless of the personal cost. We are taught that the things we day-dreamed about as kids are childish, foolish, and idle pleasures. In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty there is the iconic moment when Walter has to grow up and take care of his family. To do so, he shaves off his mohawk, which is symbolic of him losing that part of himself. I think this is something we all go through at some point, making the responsible choices, shaving our literal, or figurative, mohawk.

When I was in high school I subjected myself to chemistry, biology, and the higher-level math class. I hated these classes, and the feeling really was mutual. I was unable to take courses I wanted to, History and English Lit, because it conflicted with the ’smart choices’. I thought I was making responsible choices in going this route: keeping my options open. I made it through the courses but with a certain level of stress and self-doubt. As I have grown I have found my childhood passion again, which, surprise, does not include anything to do with chemistry, biology, or math! Walter Mitty has help in finding himself again, help in touching with that child hood free spirit that he had lost along the way.

Like Walter, I had help in finding my passion again. Sometimes we need a little nudge to get on that helicopter with the drunk pilot. While Cheryl Melhoff may not have actually been there, encouraging Walter to get on that helicopter, her voice was in his mind. Having that support, and that nudge, is sometimes all a person needs to find themselves again,. to reconnect with their childhood dreams. For myself, I have the support of everyone around me to follow my passions. But, without the continued support of my husband, without the push to take a chance and reconnect with my passions, I likely would not have taken the leap. I would be living in a grey world of repetition: get up, go to work, go home, repeat.

Walter Mitty found how easy it was to get back to the life he wanted if he was willing to take the chance. From the beginning of the movie to the end you can see a physical change in appearance in Walter, but also an emotional one. He is no longer afraid to speak about his feelings or be true to himself. The quintessence of life, the reason Walter connected with Cheryl, who encouraged him to leave the safety of his regular life, was himself. The quintessence of life resides in everyone. Sometimes we just need the right person to come along and coax it back out.

What resonates with myself in this movie is the change that comes over Walter. He is able to change from what I would consider a mousy character into someone who is confident and empowered. I can relate, as I have seen the same changes in myself. It is amazing what a little coaxing from someone can do; even if that person does not know what they have done to contribute to the positive change. Perhaps it is because they are not consciously trying to encourage change that we are receptive to it. It is simply through their actions and attitude that they draw out our old self. Cheryl did not try to get Walter to embrace his old self; but through her actions and attitude, coaxed Walter out of his comfort zone, and encouraged him to take a risk.

Deanna Roney is an AU student who loves adventure in life and literature

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