The last day of school that year, “Mrs. Tuttle,” my eighth grade English teacher asked me to come see her before I went home.
She was one of those no nonsense, no smiles, no kidding around, unpopular teachers. I liked her, anyway.
Late that afternoon, as we stood face to face, alone in her classroom, she said, “You are a smart girl. I expect you to do well in life, but you are going to have to change your attitude.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I said, as students did in those days. I had no clue.
“Do you understand what I’m telling you?”
“You believe I need to change my attitude, if I am to succeed in life.”
“That’s correct,” she said. “You’re dismissed.”
One of my buddies had hung around, interested to know what Mrs. Tuttle had to say. He was the second best student in our class. I was first. We were friends. We walked outside before he asked me what she said. I repeated our conversation, verbatim.
“What did she mean?” He frowned.
“I’m going to look up the word ‘attitude.’ I don’t know where mine is, or what it is.” I grinned. “I don’t think it’s anything that requires surgery, but I darn sure don’t know how to adjust it.”
All these years later, I’ve come to believe Attitude has to do with generally smiling or frowning, believing the glass is half full, or not, and in enjoying people’s strengths and disregarding their foibles. I’ve long been criticized for my Pollyanna attitude. One family critic complained that I always anticipated things turning out the way I wanted them to.
“Maybe it’s because they usually do,” I defended.
“For you.” His voice usually dropped to an inaudible grumble about that time in our ongoing argument on the subject. His usually involved profanity.
My last shot usually was, “Maybe my thinking things will work out has something to do with my history of good results.”
At his funeral last fall, I could almost hear him saying, “I told you so.”
They never met, but I wonder if Mrs. Tuttle and my grumpy relative had attitudes in common. They both encouraged, even badgered me to adjust mine. I never have.
We who write––and occasionally sell––live with hope. For us, optimism is a staple that leads to successes.
I’m convinced that success is not all in the wrists, as advertised. It’s in the attitude.