This year spring brought about a stealthy condition akin to depression which replaced my usual joyfulness and eagerness to accomplish things. This inert condition of being in a rut is familiar to many, I bet; it creeps in when life settles into the mundane and routine predicts our schedules and activities. Looking at the variety of projects that I created for myself and that were once perceived as wonderful, I would think about all the work that would need to go into actually getting these projects accomplished, and I would get intimidated. Instead of taking action, I would sit myself onto the couch with a cup of coffee (or a pint of ice cream) hoping that perhaps a jolt of caffeine (or half a kilo of sugar) will give me what it takes to start actually DOING what needs to be done. I would remember my mother’s words when she encouraged me whenever I dreaded doing something: “your eyes are afraid, but your hands are doing [the work]”. However powerful, even those words were not able to move me from the couch.
I found the cure for this condition just the other day through the people who have been wonderfully placed in my life. A client told me how happy she was with a private teacher who started tutoring her eight-year-old in reading and math. “We are very happy with Marta - she has an incredible way of igniting my daughter’s interest in learning; and my daughter runs to hug her new teacher and looks forward to every lesson!” When I heard those words I started saying how much of an inspiration Marta is to me personally, how I have never seen her have a bad day, and that she is always upbeat, positive, eager to learn and share her knowledge with others, always smiling and radiating happiness. As I was speaking these words, I caught myself thinking that I want to be like Marta, an always-happy-and-productive inspiration to others.
Later that day I went to the house of my Spanish teacher in whom I confide all my secrets in my not-yet-perfect Spanish, and who, after listening to me whine about not wanting to do anything, told me that she starts every day with ENTHUSIASM. Waking up every morning, Rosario, whom I don’t ever recall seeing angry, disconcerted, or having a bad day, looks forward to the classes she will teach and things she will do. She talked about her mother, who even at the age of 82 wanted to go visit another city in her native Colombia and assured her daughter that she could still sew, knit, and do other type of work. As Rosario was telling the story about her late mother with tears in her eyes, about how she didn't fear work, it made me think of the last line in Voltaire’s Candide “we must cultivate our garden”…
Thinking about Marta and the words of Rosario, I decided to make ENTHUSIASM my word of the day, my slogan to keep me moving forward. Perhaps this article belongs in the realm of self-help and inspiration, but, after giving it some thought, I realized that enthusiasm applies to learning languages as well. How often do we get excited about learning a new language, sign up for a class, buy a book, or resolve to watch YouTube videos to start learning, and then after a while the flame dies down and the only thing that is left from the dream to speak a foreign language is the remorse for not having done what it takes to actually achieve that goal? How often do we as teachers (let’s be honest, it does happen from time to time) get into a routine, settle into our comfort zone, and continue teaching without trying to reinvent ourselves and think outside the old proven methods? And how much fun is it to learn with a teacher who always thinks of new ways to interest her students with songs, games, and other exercises that are far from the traditional classroom but produce excellent results (like my wonderful Italian teacher Laura – grazie!) What is the prescription for always being excited and passionate about projects, life, languages?
I resolved to be ENTHUSIASTIC, just like Rosario taught me. Excited and ready to bring into life and to fruition all those projects and ideas that are born in my head, I decided to share this excitement with others, and, having googled “enthusiasm”, I came across the following quote by a photographer Gordon Parks: “Enthusiasm is the electricity of life. How do you get it? You act enthusiastic until you make it a habit.” Fake it till you make it, in other words, or become an energizer bunny like Marta, resolve every morning to wake up with enthusiasm like Rosario, and cultivate your garden one inch at a time even though your eyes are horrified by what seems to be an insurmountable amount of work. This quote convinced me to make ENTHUSIASM a mandatory supplement to my daily morning coffee, a habit, that will help me stay passionate about my teaching, work, and hobbies.