State of the Danny

A lot has changed since my last post.

In the fall, I began taking classes at my new university. I’m still not enamored with my present situation but I feel that my dissatisfaction may be related more to the college experience than to a particular institution. Regardless, I am trying to take life a day at a time and get the most out of my education. Although I transferred in the fall as a Spanish and French double-major and a technical theatre minor, I dropped my theatre minor almost immediately and eventually dropped the French double major by the end of the semester and replaced it with a Political Science minor. Now that the spring semester has commenced, I am feeling some languor towards my language studies. At this point, I am just attempting to stay on my feet and find something that lights me up.

Around the same time, I also fulfilled my obligations at my old arts administration job and declined to renew my contract. I had a wonderful time with my company but ultimately decided that it was time for me to move on. Soon thereafter, I began what has turned out to be a fun and exciting career in fashion retail (of all places). Everybody likes to complain about retail/customer service positions but I have found myself fitting in very nicely and I have derived a great deal of personal satisfaction from my position. My job has also led me to the conclusion that I genuinely do enjoy meeting and interacting with people; it is perhaps one of my favorite aspects of my current position. One of my customers told me recently that I was the “stunningly pretty…er, handsome” and that has sent me on an unnecessary ego trip. Do I want to be selling clothes for the rest of my life? No. But I certainly am having a great time doing it for now. I haven’t anathematized theatre entirely, either; I am still doing occasional freelance work and have discovered that I prefer doing theatre as a hobby to doing it as a vocation.

My personal life continues to be, as always, relatively low-key. I am keeping my inner circle tight but we are having a blast.

Do I have all of the answers right now? Absolutely not. It was tough going from a sense of rigid self-assuredness to a state of  transitional soul-searching but I am hanging in there and being the best that I can be.

I leave you with this gem because, although I was not ready for the picture to be taken, I feel very attractive:

A College Admissions Essay That Also Makes A Fantastic Blog Post

My interest in and passion for the Spanish language and intercultural communication holds its roots in my first grade classroom in what was not so much a field trip but rather an intellectual awakening.

One Thursday afternoon in 1997, my first grade teacher, Mrs. Deegan, announced that the class would be going on a trip to Mexico the next day. Questions immediately began swirling in my head: What does one take to Mexico? For how long will we be gone? How hot is it in Mexico? Can my mother come? Mrs. Deegan assured me that it was but a short excursion to which I need not bring anything because we would be inside for the whole time and that, no, my mother unfortunately would not be able to accompany us on our journey southward.

That evening, I tried to do as much research as I could about going to Mexico. In my youthful naïveté, I genuinely believed that there was enough money in the public school budget to fly 100 first-graders to Mexico. In an era before Google, my quest for knowledge left me feeling fundamentally unfulfilled. I explained the situation to my mother and she simply winked and told me that I was going to enjoy myself. Once again, the lack of answers was beginning to worry me.

I was extremely anxious when I arrived at school the next day. After waiting in giddy anticipation all morning, we were finally told by Mrs. Deegan after lunch that it was time to get on the airplane and leave. She lined the entire class up in the classroom and led us out into the hallway, where we were greeted by the teacher from across the hall standing amongst several rows of classroom chairs lined up in rows as if they were seats on a jumbo jet.

Whilst “boarding” the bogus Boeing, I was more confused than ever. Surely a row of chairs could not take us anywhere special. After all, this wasn’t “The Magic Schoolbus”! Nonetheless, the teacher asked us all to fasten our seatbelts and prepare for takeoff. After a 90-second “flight”, she led us into the library, which was ornately decorated with stereotypical Cinco de Mayo decorations most likely purchased from Target. Regardless of the authenticity of the decorations, we were all in an excited stupor.

Throughout the afternoon, we participated in several activities that exposed us to different aspects of Mexican culture; we made flowers out of pipe cleaners and tissue paper, ate chips and salsa, read Mexican folk tales, learned Spanish words and even explored the history of the piñata and were able to break one open (an activity that I’m sure would give post-90‘s educators a heart attack). The families of our Hispanic classmates were there to help out and to provide us with insights into Hispanic culture, making the experience seem even more authentic.

After an hour or so of cultural immersion, it was time to return home. We walked single-file back into the hallway, boarded the airplane and “flew” back to our classroom. Although I may not have realized it at the time, I am now convinced that this field trip that wasn’t really a field trip sewed a seed within me that eventually grew into an immense interest in other languages and cultures. I have been studying Spanish now for seven years and am still immensely passionate about the language and the culture and look forward to continuing my studies at UMBC. Additionally, I have yet to actually visit Mexico but I know that when I am finally able to feed my insatiable desire for international travel, I will fondly think back to elementary school my trip to Mexico and have a deep and profound full-circle moment.

Shaken or Stirred?

Language Scramble

It was Herman Melville who once said, “We become sad in the first place because we have nothing stirring to do.” Perhaps my present general discontent with my existence stems from a complete and utter lack of language education. For six consecutive years of my life, I was in Spanish class every day; I studied to the point of fluency.  For one wonderful year of my life, I was in daily French and Spanish classes with two wonderful instructors whom I enjoyed endlessly.

Now that I am fluent in Spanish, one of my biggest fears is losing my Spanish through nonuse. As with many things in life, it is difficult to attain but painfully easy to lose. Similarly, I consider myself to be conversant in French; I only studied it for two years however I was able to augment classroom instruction with my own personal studies to rise above the curriculum. I purchased several Portuguese instruction books during the winter but have generally fallen away from my Portuguese studies because I have been so busy. My forthcoming trip to Italy presents a wonderful opportunity to jam as much Italian into my brain as possibly in the next eleven months.

In short, I have a lot of language to maintain and no real methods by which to maintain. I do a lot of reading in Spanish but not a lot of speaking/writing. I had a Spanish pen pal several years ago, perhaps it is time to re-examine that opportunity? I don’t yet consider myself adequately versed in French to have an intelligent conversation or make any sort of contributions to the Francophone world but I have been plowing through Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot series which is peppered with just enough French that I feel linguistically stimulated.

As for the Portuguese and Italian? Perhaps I would be better off waiting until I can take some classes in the fall. Either way, I am excitedly passionate about picking up both languages. It will happen in due time.

Photo: Language Scramble by magdalar on Flickr

Words That I Love

As I find myself in the midst of a complete and utter love affair with the English language, I find it appropriate to perpetuate a few certain words with which I am absolutely enamored.

  • precipice (n) – the brink of a dangerous situation. I am drawn to this word’s pronunciation, the fricative “s” and the plosive “p” produce such fascinating sounds.
  • essay (v) – to try; attempt. This word is so wonderfully powerful when spoken; to me, it communicates a true desire to attempt.
  • denigrate (v) – to speak damagingly of; criticize in a derogatory manner; sully; defame. Again, I find this word to be extremely powerful.
  • juxtaposition (n) – an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast. Put simply, this word sounds so complicated but is frankly quite simple.
  • nascent (adj) – beginning to exist or develop. The “sh” sound in this word fascinates me.
  • verity (n) – something that is true, as a principle, belief, idea, or statement. I associate this word with personal morals and beliefs, additionally, it sounds so elegant when used to describe one’s convictions.
  • aplomb (n) – equanimity, self-confidence, or self-possession. It is a shame that this word is used so infrequently; the elegance that dwells within its pronunciation mirrors the meaning of the word.

I’ve been keeping a list on my iPhone recently of wonderful words that I encounter in everyday speech. I have essayed to incorporate these magnificent gems into my everyday life in an effort to expand my vocabulary and grow my eloquence.

By the way, am I the only one who is confused that no synonyms for “word” exist? One would think that such a simple concept would have several different names but, alas, the closest synonym is “unit of language”.

What is your mot du jour?