On My Mind


What’s making you smile these days?

For me it’s that this week I started a Spanish class, got to read in a cool building, and went for a long, medicinal walk. I realize now that these all sound like the activities of retirement, but whatever. I’m wild like that.


So about this Spanish class, the one I’ve been putting off for three years. I’m taking it now, over summer, so I can graduate early and run off to Brooklyn as soon as possible.

It should be noted that I was fifteen the last time I took Spanish and my teacher would usually just put a movie on in Spanish and call it a day. I am still convinced that he was high for almost all of our classes too, but it was a beach community and so was about half of the student body. Plus, vaping was really hitting its peak around those years. Anytime you went to the bathroom, all you saw were scrawny freshman hacking up their undeveloped lungs in giant clouds of smoke. I had to literally part the air just to see myself in the mirror. Well there was this kid in that Spanish class who was just a little bit more into it than your average Joe. He wouldn’t bother sneaking outside, he would just hide his vape pen right in his sweatshirt sleeve, then bend down and blow the vape into his backpack mid-class. He wasn’t nearly as sly as he must have thought that he was either. One time he saw me staring at him and, in a daze, hazily pressed a finger to his lips and shushed while his eyes rolled back in his head. It didn’t exactly come as a surprise that he ended up in rehab before junior year. I bet my Spanish teacher was right there with him.


But I was still pretty fresh out of the good old Catholic regime of parochial school at this point, so the whole public school scene was still quite exciting and unbelievable. Never mind drugs, getting to show my ankles and sit next to kids with blue hair and nose rings was enough of a high for me. I was stoned on self-expression and the promise of individuality. And could you blame me? I had seen some serious shit. We all had.

Like the annual reenactment of Jesus’s death where they made an innocent second grader take his shirt off carry an actual wooden cross in front of the whole school. The kid always got really into it too and you never quite knew if you should have been impressed or alarmed by this. Or like all of the times that my class went to confession and I had to sit in the back of the church with the one other non-Catholic heathen and stew in my alleged sins while ever other kid got to make a deal with God and be absolved of theirs. Do you know what that does to a kid? I was an anxious wreck. Not to mention the lesser tragedy of never getting to eat that little wafer in Church. I was always trying to steal one but was simultaneously afraid that I might just go straight to hell if the blessed Eucharist touched my unblessed tongue and thus backed out every time. I was, apparently, already on the fast track and felt no imminent need to push it. What were you afraid of in third grade? Please say spiders.


The point that I’m getting wildly sidetracked from making though is that what I remember of Spanish class is the kid who vaped out of his backpack, not how to conjugate a verb. So the thought of having to take an intermediate course in college, five years later, in order to graduate was daunting to say the least. But when I sat in that classroom today, it was actually kind of fun. Who knew? It’s amazing what you can learn with a teacher who’s not on crack. I was speaking whole sentences and pulling from a bank of vocabulary I didn’t even know I had. I loved the way that each word sounded and how the language itself rolled off of my tongue. For the first time ever, I was learning Spanish in a Spanish class and actually seeing value in it. What a concept, I know.


In other news, I feel quite calm, or tranquila, and happy. I went for this long walk the other day and realized that my mind wasn’t racing. I wasn’t anywhere but the present moment. I felt connected with my body and with the earth. I felt beautiful. For so much of my life I have struggled with anxiety or body image or depression or whatever the hell else this world breeds like bacteria in our minds. And summer, that endless chain of identical months, always exacerbated all of this. If mental illnesses were bacteria, summer break was always the petri dish that bred mine. I loathed it. Which, considering that I grew up in San Diego, I realize sounds criminal. But it was never about the beach. It was about not having any orientation in space and time. I felt way that even as a young kid. My brother could sit and read or watch movies all day and be perfectly content, but I needed structure. For me, free time is a reward. If I have an unlimited supply of it, it loses all value.


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