In my late 20s, I knew that I wanted to make a vocational shift, but I struggled to find the courage to do so. One day, I came across the lines of Transcendentalist philosopher Henry David Thoreau. “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation,” he wrote in Walden
in 1854. Though Thoreau lapsed into an unfortunate gender bias (as women may lead lives of quiet desperation, too), I still took refuge in his words. Reflecting on my own life (which felt quietly desperate, I realized) imparted me with the audacity to make a change and follow…
by Justin Parmenter, Charlotte Mecklenburg School District, NC
English teacher Justin Parmenter describes how his encounters with essays by Thoreau and Emerson, and later with the poem “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,” helped him to understand how literature can provide both an escape from the troubles of life and a connection to others who’ve seen and felt the same things though they may have lived centuries before.
The simple elegance of this poem has stayed with me ever since I first read it as an assignment for sophomore English. And it has become something of a personal motto as I feel a kinship with the author.
I often find myself reciting it to others as a way of explaining why I do the things I do and to help them realize that even the smallest act of kindness is important. After all, what seems like a small thing to you can make a huge difference in the life of someone else.
As I am now deciding on a college major and thinking about my future…