"The rage you feel? Listen to me carefully. It's a gift. Use it, but don't let anyone see it." - Nucky Thompson, Boardwalk Empire
Nucky may be a fictional character, but these are words of wisdom. I may not feel actual rage on a regular basis, but I’m also not a gangster and mob boss who traffics in violence like Nucky.
But whenever I’m feeling lazy or unfocused, I immediately redirect my attention on all the things that I I have spent my life working against:
- The poverty that I have experienced many times in my life
- The teachers and guidance counselors in high school who never spoke to me about college despite my excellent grades and laundry list of extracurricular activities
- The former stepfather who did so much damage to my mother and my siblings and cost us our childhood home
- The long, cold, frightening nights spent living in my car in Somerville, Massachusetts when I was homeless
- The police officer who arrested me for a crime I did not commit
- The hours spent in a tiny jail cell, awaiting my arraignment
- All the McDonald’s customers who treated me and my employees poorly over the years because of our place of employment
- The prosecutor who railed against me at my trial – calling me me a thief and a liar – while trying to strip me of my freedom
- The college professor who told me that I probably wasn’t talented enough to publish novels and should think about a different career
- The people with so many advantages in life – supportive parents, stable homes, parents who paid for their college tuition, family businesses that accepted them with open arms – who fail to do great things with their lives and good fortune
- The anonymous villains who tried to destroy my teaching career
When I am not doing my best, working my hardest, trying like hell to succeed, these are the people I think about. These are the things that get me moving again.
While I don’t want my children to be impoverished or homeless or jailed or told that they aren’t talented enough to succeed, my hope is that they have a little fire in their bellies when they get older. A reason to prove someone wrong. Something that has hardened them and sharpened them a bit. Maybe a little anger residing somewhere within, kept hidden as Nucky advises, but always there, pointing them forward and onward to greater things.
Success really is the best revenge.