Every day begins the same. I wake up, feed my dog, and brew a pot of coffee. Then I cozy up on the couch and begin my daily Spanish lessons, sipping coffee while my mind and body power up and prepare for the day. At first, I simply wanted to brush up on all the high school Spanish I learned and later forgot after years of disuse. It was a fun and easy way to start the day, with the added benefit of seeing tangible progress both within the language app and in my new ability to understand and comprehend another language.
This has been my routine for over two years and it’s come to mean a lot to me during the pandemic. I’ve maintained a daily practice streak for over two years and learned thousands of words, surpassing everything I learned in high school. I keep a notebook that I use to write down lessons and mistakes, a helpful tool because the app I use takes an “immersion” approach to language and rarely explains grammar or basic sentence structure. I have no idea how Spanish pronouns work, but every day it gets a little easier to write, translate, and comprehend basic sentences. It’s progress, not perfection, and that’s fine with me.
While I enjoy learning Spanish and my journey towards fluency, that’s not what keeps me coming back morning after morning. Instead, it’s the sense of fulfillment I feel upon completing my daily quota. Even if I made a lot of mistakes that day, I completed my lessons and earned enough points to maintain my streak and keep going. In a way, it’s a reminder that life goes on and that I still have autonomy when the world makes me feel otherwise. Spanish lessons are now a constant for me, something that is part of my routine that I can do and enjoy, even when the world is on fire and I feel powerless.
These constants have become very important to me over the past year. This has been a difficult time for the entire world and so much has changed so quickly. I think of it as “the floor is lava,” that game we all used to play as kids. With so much change happening all around us, it can be difficult to see what comes next. How do you move forward when nothing is stable and everything is changing? When the stakes are life-and-death, it’s important to choose carefully.
This is why my morning Spanish routine has become so important to me. Being a goal-oriented person, I’ve spent much of the last year in a state of frustration. All the big decisions in my life were put on hold because the options either disappeared, changed, or were deemed too dangerous for me, an at-risk person. Learning Spanish is something I choose to do and that I can do despite whatever the pandemic and the world may throw at me. Having this constant has helped ease my frustration and also serves as a kind of anchor in my life. Regardless of what happens, I will maintain my streak, learn new words, and struggle through conjugations.
Learning Spanish is also teaching me to focus on the present and realize that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. Making mistakes is a necessary part of learning and, without these mistakes, I wouldn’t understand how the Spanish language works or why it’s done this way instead of that way. This helps me be kinder to myself when frustration and fatigue set in and reminds me that I am doing what I can, step by step, and that all those steps add up to big progress.
We all need constants and anchors in our lives. Structure is important, and having these anchors is a great starting point when we don’t know what to do. When I feel powerless because of the death and sickness happening around me, it helps to know that tomorrow will begin the same way it has for over two years. I will wake up, feed my dog, and brew a pot of coffee. Then I will anchor myself and get through another day.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.