Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: Transcending Spanish: On lessons learned beyond foreign language.

11.01.2014

Transcending Spanish: On lessons learned beyond foreign language.

In 1999, I embarked on an academic journey through the levels of Spanish offered at my high school. For all but one year of that journey, I had the same teacher. This particular person had a passion for the power of language, and his uncanny way of teaching this mandatory academic requirement still has me reminiscing about some of those moments in time, even 15 years later. I've written about many of those tales and they lie in the old archives of my written journals. However, beyond learning the ins and outs of Spanish grammar and sentence structures, what I really learned and still value are life lessons that transcend any language. So, I figure with the end of my 20s peeking around the corner, I'd share a few of these lessons as my thank you to him for being one of my most influential mentors.


1. If you're expected to "do your best" on a project, go the hell overboard on it because neither he or I wouldn't expect anything less of me.
It's one thing to do something for the requirement or for the "A." It's another to do something so far beyond requirements that blows the competition away. When I had someone like him to command a class so well that he could instill a hunger for success and demand for the best without ever directly asking for it, extraordinary became the new normal. But perhaps it was a combination of that and my own overachieving nature. Call me crazy or a bit obsessed, but it was that attention to detail that made me realize that I could reach a higher level of creativity. In fact, being there catapulted me into things far beyond Spanish, such as my professional videography and photography among other entrepreneurial projects. Settling for the minimum was only a detriment to oneself, and he made sure you knew that.

2. Humor comes from the most mundane moments. Appreciate the smallest things for they become the biggest memories.
Sitting through that class guaranteed at least one laugh during any given period. Whether it was the story of his infamous Acura Integra dying somewhere en route to campus, the subtle fist pump he gave when that one trouble kid was sent to the office, the belligerence of freshmen further reduced them from "los animales" to "bacteria," or an exercise conjugating a verb that describes an undesirable bodily function or an illegal action, there was always an excuse to let out a chuckle. Often times I've forgotten to find the lighter side of what could otherwise be boring and emotionless routine. However, the world provides enough potential material for a joke (or several). That is, if I'm in the right mindset, relax a little bit, and take things in stride. Remembering usage of the preterite vs. the imperfect may be a bit fuzzy, but the time he randomly started speaking in Russian mid-lecture during AP Spanish is a bright as day.

3. The finest people I've ever known are both masters and students of their crafts.
Passion is a great motivator to keep going on, even when the challenges seem insurmountable. Although mastering the Spanish language wasn't my lifelong dream, it wasn't hard to feed off my mentor's energy and enthusiasm for the subject. And knowing that there was a whole other valuable dimension of language past the grammar and tests made the effort even more worthwhile. One thing I always admired about him is that he never stopped learning and exploring his field of study, long after degrees had been earned and higher academia didn't require much else from him. If that is not the essence of true passion for a topic, I don't know what is.

4. Do what makes you happy, take a chance, and get out there.
In a random conversation I had with him one afternoon in junior year, I revealed that I was in quite a dark place in my own thoughts. He simply reminded me that I needed to surround myself with what brought joy and positive energy to me. This was one of the most enduring lessons I've learned from him. It's no surprise that those words those many years ago had a bit of an influence on my desire to travel, my insane motorcycle adventures, and dedication to all things involving two wheels. I consider the moment when he asked me, as we were leaving campus after my latest surprise visit to his classroom back in June, to rev my motorcycle's engine in the parking lot so he could hear it, as one of the greatest honors of my life. It was a privilege to share one of my passions as he had done for me throughout the years that I had studied under him. I could only hope that somewhere, within this roundabout path to get to where I am now, that I did him proud somehow.

So to that teacher (who will remain unnamed here because Google searches are quite dangerous), I am eternally grateful. I got this far with my life and weathered quite a few storms so far...and I'll do everything to not fail myself.