I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I love quoting movies. There are often lines that completely sum up the precise emotional tone of a situation and if you say the line to someone else who has seen the movie, they know the exact feeling you’re trying to convey in a few brief words: shared cultural shorthand. Plus, it’s usually funny. In my family, many of us can have entire conversations of movie-line dialogue, from something as recent as The Avengers to classics like Casablanca. (Yvonne, I love you but he pays me.)
Every day during the past year during some course of the day at my non-writing job, my brain has recited this quote. It’s from The Mummy, the one with Brendan Fraser. As they are desperately trying to evade a monstrous evil sand cloud in a decrepit biplane, Fraser’s character quips to the pilot, “Hey, Winston, pedal faster.” To me, it was a perfect summary of the idea that disaster is imminent and the possibility of avoiding it as unlikely as a sudden burst of speed from the original Wright Brothers’ plane.
The evil monster sand cloud at my work has been the threat of the agency closing, or of it becoming so dangerous to work with the students suddenly thrown out of all the state-closed detention facilities that I left in pieces. The pedaling faster was my writing pace. Every day I tried to model Fraser’s wry humor as I thought, “Pedal faster,” my pedaling being more books written to provide more space between me and that looming disaster. But no matter how scary that sand cloud got, my brain didn’t appear to listen to my urges.
In the movie, the sand cloud overtakes them. It overtook me too. I realized I couldn’t work as a corrections officer when I only have the skills of a teacher. I feel horrible about being able to be one of the ones to walk away after the sand cloud had roughed me up and spit me out. I’ve left colleagues still pedaling away as the grit and grind scours their sanity and souls. But I’m profoundly grateful to the readers who have made it possible for me to finally achieve my life-long dream of being a full-time writer.
Now that I’m not trying to outrun an evil mummy’s sandstorm, the pages and words come faster. I’m not paralyzed by looking over my shoulder, but excited about what’s ahead of me. I was already working part time, so it’s not as if I’ve discovered that many more hours in the day. And the idea of my income being completely unpredictable should be a lot scarier than that sand cloud that I could at least see coming.
But it isn’t. I still love the pressure of deadlines, whether or not they are self imposed. But the thing I thought would overtake me did, and just like O’Connell, I managed to accept my losses and find a new way to reach my goals.
All I know is that I’m happy, I’m grateful and it’s much easier to pedal faster when there isn’t sand in your gears.