“I’ve been fighting with one hand tied behind my back, what happens when I’m finally set free?” Captain Marvel says in the newly released film.

My heart leaped. My lesson plans were changing. Monday, I was going to talk about this with my students. What makes a superhero? Have you ever felt that way? Can you be a superhero?

All questions I wrote on the board in bold letters, beginning the discussion over personal power.

I know what it’s like to not have any and to live with one hand behind my back — the defeating tapes I’d heard from others over the years intended to keep me down, oppressed in some way. Thinking about the movie over the weekend, I reflected about the past to figure out when I decided to break free.

It was in college, the morning I got my final grades and realized that I was doing exactly what my high school counselor told me — that I shouldn’t go to college, I’d flunk out.

I went anyway and the first two years that’s what I showed, a string of Fs. It was a wake-up call; I had to change and I did, though it was two steps forward and several steps back for a while, a failed marriage, or two, and some dead-end jobs, but I finally began to have more wins than losses.

I went on to earn four degrees, the last a Ph.D. in my early 50s. What changed? My belief in myself. I had a choice to replay those negative voices from the past and stay stuck or reach down inside and find the strength to move beyond what I thought was impossible.

How? Just what I teach my students. I read voraciously (and still do). I began to say “no” to things in my life that didn’t bring me joy, but stressed and out of sync, and on someone else’s dream team. I let go of being a doormat and embraced my inner voice, my truest self. I began to see myself as my own superhero. Strong and valuable.

Superheroes’ persevere through the darkest hour. They’re determined to achieve no matter what; optimist to see the sunshine behind the clouds; have the mental stamina to push forward in spite of feelings; wisdom to heed sound advice; organized and prepared in the home and at work to maximize time; humility to shine a light on others; energetic because of good sleep, nutrition, and exercise; responsible in actions and commitments; knowledgeable, reading on many subjects and thinking deeply.

Purposeful because they know what they’re living for — to be the best — and do extraordinary things, teaching others to thrive using both hands, too.

I don’t want another student to live defeated, that’s why I teach. Self-confidence and education gives us the superpower to choose who we are and how we want to live.

As they say in Texas, “It’s the way you ride the trail that counts.” You’re a superhero, believe it and be free.

Leslie Cappiello is an educator in Galveston.

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