I don’t like New Years Day. It’s so hard to feel full of hope and ready for a fresh start when it’s bone chillingly cold. All I feel on January 1st is ready for spring. So I’m never in the mood for resolutions when the rest of America is talking about them.
Last year I decided to think of the day before my birthday as my personal New Year’s Eve. The next day I wake up and celebrate and decide the one thing I want to accomplish by my next birthday.
So I turned 24 and pledged to find a community to fill the aching dead space where F Squad had lived.
And I DID IT.
Last week I was too busy traipsing around the great white north, and armchair managing the Red Sox(I offhandedly said during the All Star game “We should really try to get Drew Pomeranz” and two days later guess who we made a trade for? I’ve rarely been more proud of myself), to really sit down and think about what I wanted out of this next year of my life.
This morning when I woke up and still didn’t feel like leaving my cloud of a bed, after our 15 hour trip home yesterday, I laid there and thought of something I’ve now wanted for twenty years.
This is Tito.
Let me say it one more time because it’s so bizarre to me: this picture was taken twenty years ago. I’ve since learned that bangs don’t work on me.
Tito was from the Dominican Republic. He was staying with my babysitter’s family for a month because he had heart problems and needed surgery in an American hospital, so I got to play with him every Sunday at church and usually a time or two during the week. We were BFFs. Every time we saw each other we would run and yell and hug like we hadn’t been together in a year(I guess when you’re five, a week between Sundays feels like a long time).
But Tito didn’t speak a word of English. This didn’t stop us from talking to each other; he was almost as talkative as I am and neither of us noticed that the other had no idea what we were saying.
Still, I begged my mom every day to teach me more words in Spanish so I could say them to him. I think I told him how old I was every time I saw him, because that was the only whole sentence I knew; otherwise I’d just excitedly point to any new object in the room and yell the word I’d learned. He would laugh and continue rambling in Spanish, not realizing that I hadn’t suddenly become fluent just because I knew the days of the week.
We both cried when it was time for him to go home; I remember he made me a card with a note in Spanish in it, and Rachael had written the English translation on the back. Even though my mom tried to get me to understand that I’d probably never see him again, I was determined to learn ALL the Spanish in case he came back someday.
I never got around to becoming fluent, but I’ve never stopped wanting to learn. Sort of like how I’ve always wished I liked another sport besides baseball; I go through phases and try to get into football or basketball or even hockey, but it’s too hard and I give up after a couple weeks.
Especially after living in South America for four months and loving teaching English in Ecuador, I knew for sure that whatever I ended up doing with my life, I wanted to do it in Spanish.
So, that’s what I’m going to do with 25. Actually try. Study consistently. Turn 26 knowing significantly more than what I learned in high school. And maybe do something with what I already know; I could probably have a lot of fun tutoring high school kids who don’t pay attention in class, because people always get excited when I’m excited.
I don’t know how I haven’t gotten started on this earlier, because my practical* dream job is to work with foster kids whose parents have been deported(did you know that happens? The children are citizens because they were born here, but their parents were here illegally, so they get sent back to their country while their kids have to stay here. I’ll help translate between the legal people and the parents, and the kids and their American foster families). I don’t usually like to tell people that because they always remind me how impossible that is for me, seeing as I got the wrong degree in college. I get that, but Oprah was like 40 when she made it in life, so I’ve got time.
I’m excited about life. 24 was long and dark. 25 looks bright and full.
*My out of my mind, never gonna happen dream job is to teach English to pro baseball players who come from places like the Dominican Republic, or translate for them in interviews. Getting a job in a field in which I have zero knowledge or experience sounds much more doable when you compare it to that.