Back in his new haven, Jeremy's posture changed. Here, he could relax. He felt save here, but more importantly, it was an excellent place for study or recollection. On his worktable, where he wrote down this day's experiences, so that he could later look back and draw conclusions, lay an open book. He picked it up, and leaved back to he first page. He started reading an (encoded) entry in his very own brand new laboratory journal, just a few days old.
"Not too long ago, I have introduced myself to the Dragons of New York. Among other things, they gave me advice and described their own approaches to the great work. An advice that was standing out in particular was a statement by Scribe Lee, pointing out how I appear overly eager when it comes to new experiences. This was not a compliment, as one might expect it to be among Dragons. It was a sign of new experiences being challenging for me, and I must admit that, even without taking stock of myself, I found that I agreed with her."
But, as is often the case, Jeremy had taken the advice to heart, and so he started thinking about this... "problem".
It cannot be a problem about new situations in general. I have braced many of those in the past with much more poise than now. I'm also not generally bad with people, I know that. Neither is it an inability to think.
He remembered how he had started to doubt himself and nearly succumbed to a frenzy in his own haven. Oh, how disagreeable that would have been. The thought made him smile in embarrasment. But it was worth it. The method and line of thought he reached through it were invaluable to him now.
Or is my mind dulled that much...? Insecurity had welled up inside of him and anger followed in its wake, as he felt his Beast rise among those emotions. He had to shake himself out of it, calm himself down. That line of thought is not going to solve anything. No, I have to work with what I got. But what do I have?
He had kept thinking for some time, but finally sat down on his couch, and rested his head on his hands. "Years of scholarship, and what do I have to show for it? Not one thing outside of this brain of mine." Which was not true, of course, as he soon had pointed out to himself. He had an appreciable pension, for one thing. But more importantly, this train of thought took him back to his days as teaching lecturer. The lessons he gave. The people he met. The people he helped.
That was when he realized that his old memories had much value: approached from a new perspective, they were like new experiences! He realized what mistakes he did during his first lecture; not scientific or factual mistakes, of course, but in approaching the class. He noticed how he had grown and developed, and remembered the first rule of teaching: If you want your students to reach a certain level, you have to know which level they are at right now!
Copying another Dragon's approach would not do him any good, he knew that; he had to find his own way. And now, he found one puzzle piece of how to do just that: Before you look forward, you have to look back. Not to just take a stroll down memory lane, no. You had to evaluate what you did and why and compare it with what you wanted to do, what you achieved and what you aimed for. Unsurprisingly, his marriages proved to be absolute mistakes in retrospection.
But what was remarkable was his former behaviour. He was always relaxed, calm, even more so in comparison to his colleagues. The point at which they started to give in to the stress was where he was still completely relaxed. Student's flocked to him, sensing his inner strength of will. Looking back, he now knew why.
It is hard to be afraid of things like deadlines or superior's threats of reducing your budget or firing you when you grew up on the street, with all that entails: being chased by policeman who'd rather shoot than ask, dealing drugs and explosives among turf wars, in areas where wearing nice shoes might be enough to get you killed, where people that hold a grudge will do a lot more than just talk badly behind your back. More than once, he had to bandage up a friend, or lost someone he cared about. That was the crucible that helped form his strength of will. That was what made him laugh off things other academicals were scared off, and come out better for it.
Strange. All his life, he had been convinced his time on the street was a pure setback, that it was time wasted on idiocy, holding him back from his true calling. Now it looked like it was exactly what gave him the edge over his competitors, what made him so good at what he did.
His eyes glistened, tinted a faint-crimson. There it was: insight. This night, he learned something new. About himself, even.
Jeremy smiled at the memory, and went to another entry.
"What happened that took away this sense of calm, what made me so insecure?
Of course, the betrayal. The people I trusted stealing what was to be my masterpiece. Rising up high, just to lose everything I had.
Oh how angry that'd made me. But, alas, jokes on them. I now have the chance to rise up higher then ever, and this time, it cannot be taken away. And I will seize it. That much is sure. In a way, I have to be thankful. If not for them, I would have happily retired, content with my achievements, and would not be here now.
Fate is a quirky mistress."
What fed his self-esteem back then was his work. His teaching others, to be exact. To help others rise, to help them become more than they were. He wanted to regain some of that.
And something else came up among all this: newfound curiousity. About his former disciples' fate. Were they well? What were they doing now?
At least, this was a question would be answered easily. He smiled, and his hand went to the telephone. He learned many new things this night and the next. For example, that it was hard to track down a student from a time where the internet was still an uncommon thing, especially if she emmigrated by now and took her husbands last name. Her surprise at being the aim of all that effort, for the simple question "All is well?" was priceless.
Jeremy smiled. Then, he went to the first blank page, and set down his pen. "Today, I re-strenghthened my relations with some of my former students. I made some calls, to see if they still remembered me and if they would be willing to talk. Turns out, all those I could reach were willing to. Delighted to, in fact. It was an interesting, experience to hear what change I had affected in them, and some are eager to re-establish former bonds. The effect was a two-way street, as their depictions of our time raised feelings in me I thought lost: Delight in another's success, pride ......."
Thus, Jeremy spent some time writing, before his phone rang. At first he was confused, but then picked it up. "Jeremy Theim?"
"Hello Dr. Theim! I am sorry for calling so early, but you said you do not sleep well nowadays, so I thought I might as well try to call you now. This is Robert, Robert Thawen, back from Chicago?"
A smile spread on Jeremy's face. Of course he remembered the then-young, smart man. "Ah, yes, Rob! How nice of you to call back. Tell me, how are you these days?"
What he had to show for all these years of scholarship? People. Smart people. Educated people. Succesfull people. More often than not, thanks to his help. People that he helped to lift up. And that was just the beginning.