Mr. J was timid. He had a relaxed nature and an obsession with superheroes. With his gentle smile and calming demeanor, it wasn’t surprising most of his students loved him. It didn’t hurt he had Hollywood good looks either. I liked him, but I never truly connected with him until he revealed his story to the class.
I definitely don’t think it was something he planned to do. The class was winding down and we were talking about what makes people happy. It was a pointless conversation. Barely, just barely we heard Mr. J whisper, “money won’t bring you happiness.” Then, as if finding strength in that thought, he looked up from his desk and with a serious look repeated, “money won’t bring you happiness.”
Repeating the statement seemed to open his floodgates. A river poured forth from Mr. J and took us by surprise. All we could do was sit there, helpless on the banks.
“I had everything I could have ever wanted,” he started, “I had a high-paying gig, a huge house, a fancy car, a wife. I knew people looked at me and thought I had everything. I was depressed. The things that dominated my life suddenly didn’t seem important anymore. I decided to quit and take two years off to learn how to become a teacher. It seemed right. I ended up losing my house and had to sell my car. Things got worse when my wife left me. But I wanted to teach.”
For a moment, I felt Mr. J pause in that river, feeling a familiar darkness consume him. I spotted tears in his eyes. I felt him trying to swim against the current as he took a deep breath. He still managed a tiny smile.
“But now, I really do have the best job in the world. I don’t have a fancy car or a fancy house. But now… Now I’m happy.”
I was marveled at this man’s story. All of us were.
I never shared his fascination for superheroes until that day. Then, I got it. Real superheroes were like Mr. J: they don’t realize the power they have. Mr. J inspired me to live my life the way he now lived his — to disregard what is stereotypically supposed to make you happy, and to be brave enough to listen to yourself and make your own happiness.
Thank you, Mr. J. I hope you read this. I haven’t forgotten.
By: Annhein Nguyen
Intern @ Kiddom