The Blacklist

How do I live with myself?

A valid question, with a simple and complex answer. I sometimes find myself gazing into oblivion, flipping through my past like the brittle and thin pages of an old dilapidated book, careful not to tear the delicate material of my tattered memory. And when a certain passage crosses my mind’s eye, it is difficult to contain my own disdain for my own past and my own consequences of my own choices. I have to live with those choices, every — single — day. Thus, posing the question, “How do I live with myself?” is a completely reasonable query.

I’ve started binge-watching a new TV show: The Blacklist. I’ve been a James Spader fan ever since I saw him in Boston Legal, and he does not disappoint in this series. The foundation of his character is this: He is a world-renown criminal who decides to secretly aid the FBI in bringing down some of the worst terrorists, arms dealers, and killers on the planet — nefarious individuals on Spader’s “Blacklist;” (for the sake of expedience, I will forego any further description).

There was a point in one of the early episodes when someone (whom Spader’s character valued greatly) said to him, “You’re a monster. How do you live with yourself?”

“I saved your life,” He replied. And at that moment, in that episode, his statement happened to be quite true.

Spader’s character, the notorious Raymond “Red” Reddington, lived a life of international crime. And yet, in the twilight of his life, he decided to turn the tables on his past and subtly (yet powerfully) help the powers of good, including saving the life of an FBI agent, among other noble deeds which were only possible because he had once been a notorious criminal.

And, wow, I saw myself in him.

I’ve booked my second speaking engagement. It’s exciting to know that people are willing to give me a chance to make a difference in the educational community. I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to stand before these groups of people and speak-out against the very epidemic to which I contributed. This, as well as publishing the book, enable me to take my dark past and use it as a foundation to brighten the future for others. This — doing these speaking engagements, writing the book — is how I live with myself.

My own “Blacklist” isn’t populated with nefarious individuals; mine is populated with nefarious deeds. And while I can’t fix the past, but I can sure-as-hell try to impact the future. I have a feeling these speaking engagements are just the beginning. I will have the opportunity in the next few months to speak to hundreds of people. And at some point in the future, I have faith that some teacher will find him/herself in the beginning stages of what could become a compromising situation — and that teacher will remember something I said, and that will make all the difference.

Because, see, here’s the thing: The impact I have on future and current teachers will never be seen. In fact, the only proof of a successful message will be inaction. It’s not as though someone can achieve something and credit me, and I’m completely fine with that. I want no credit; I want results. And in this case, a successful result will be the lack of action, not crossing the lines of propriety.

Just as “Red” would not have been able to help the FBI if he hadn’t first been a criminal, I would not have the impact I will have had I not first been a criminal. I’m not proud of my past — at all — but that does not mean I have to bury it in the archives of my life. Instead, it is the foundation for my purpose: To prevent my actions from being repeated by someone else.

I have caused pain to people, far beyond the scope of my knowledge, and there is no way I will ever be able to rectify that; instead, I have chosen to pay it forward.

I have chosen to stand up and take the worst choices I’ve ever made and use them to keep others from doing as I did. I have chosen to move forward and make a difference.

That is how I live with myself.