Buongiorno o buonanotte, depending on where you are in the world! Today is my second day attempting to learn Italian. It’s going surprisingly well! I am using an app for the iPhone called Duolingo, a very interactive app that has you speaking, reading and writing right from the get-go. I took four years of Spanish in high school, and I think I have learned more Italian in two days using this app than I learned in my first two years of Spanish in school. There are a number of contributing factors why school failed me in my grasping of the Spanish language, but I think the most important reason is the lack of constant interaction. Learning a new language is really difficult, especially when teachers assign vocabulary lists with 40 words and expect you to memorize them for a quiz. I’m sorry, but that is not an effective way to learn anything.

Trying to learn Spanish in school just instilled doubt in my abilities to master another language. That’s sad, isn’t it? I decided to give it another shot, and I am so glad I did. In just two days I have learned the basic words for different types of food, and a couple of romantic pickup lines! (I had to touch on the most important subjects first, of course.) All day at work today I was looking forward to getting home and getting back at it. I never thought learning a language would be fun. At the rate I’m learning, Italy is going to be seeing me sometime soon!

A great deal of my inspiration to learn another language came from an article I read recently about how Americans are “linguistically challenged”. I am ashamed to be among the American snobs who think that English is the superior language, and that everyone in the world should just learn English. This idiotic notion is slowly putting our youth at a disadvantage in the job market. With business and communications between different countries at an all time high, those with bi-lingual capabilities are much more likely to be successful. It’s not just the individual’s fault, but also the educational system, as I mentioned before. Isn’t there something wrong with the fact that I am raving about an iPhone app that has taught me significantly more Italian than a classroom setting would have? You would assume with a teacher as a resource and a guided class structure, learning a language would be easy. Apparently, we need to rethink our foreign language education. I’m not the only one who realizes it isn’t working. How many times have you heard “Well I took Spanish all through high school but I don’t remember any of it.”? Yeah, me too.

In high school, the school district I lived in had about 10 schools, each with a “specialty center”. I happened to attend the school that offered a foreign language immersion program. This program would force students to take normal classes, like P.E. or Geometry, while only speaking a foreign language. I used the word “force” because when you know a limited amount of a language, it is very uncomfortable to have to learn geometry while only using that language. I had many friends suffer through this very situation. As difficult as it was, they came out on top. They are now fluent in a foreign language. I wish more than anything that I could go back in time and enroll in the Spanish immersion program, but as they say, “You live and you learn, or you just die ignorant” (people say that, I promise). I think that every student who wants to learn a language should be put through this rigorous system as opposed to just taking a specific Spanish class. Bring that argument up to a school board representative and I guarantee you they will shake their heads with a sad smile and say that “The budget can’t sustain it”. My high school, which was the only school in the entire district to have foreign language immersion, had to cut the French program due to low enrollment numbers and budget issues. However, they always seemed to find the funds to allow every student a laptop to loan during the school year.

It’s never to late to acquire a new skill, old dogs can learn new tricks! Pick a language and give it a shot, I dare you.


And So It Begins…


Today I am making the conscious decision to improve my future. It sounds blatantly obvious that I would want to improve my future; after all, who wouldn’t? The difference between this declaration and the innate human need to set goals is that I am deciding to put in the time and work for it. If there is anything I’ve learned so far in my life, it’s that you can want something, think about it day and night, even envision the ecstasy you will feel when you have finally attained it. The only way you will attain it is by working harder than you ever thought was possible. That is exactly what I intend to do.

Currently I am employed at an engineering consulting company, a neophyte in a brave new world; corporate life. They sell you initially with the bi-weekly paycheck, painting you a picture of how fantastic your life will be with all of this new-found money. They say that having a secure, “good” job is the only way to lead a successful, happy life. What they don’t tell you is that you have to slave away, “40 hours a week” for the rest of your life to maintain this “high standard of living” that you get trapped into. The “they” I’m referring to, as I’m sure you have inferred yourself, is society. The reason for the excessive quotations is just to mock the masses! Most likely, you hate your job, and you end up working at least 50 hours a week. That may as well be 120 hours since you are too exhausted to do anything but watch TV and sleep when you finally retire to your house, with your unbearable mortgage constantly weighing down your dreams. If you call that a high standard of living, kudos to you, you have found happiness in the mundane. Personally, I don’t want to live that way.

I have decided that I am going to drastically change why way I live my life. I am going to position myself so that I don’t have to work in an office 40 hours a week, relying on the securities of corporate life. I am going to dedicate all of my efforts to bettering myself, awarding myself the freedom of choice after years of hard work. The choice is to help people, to help save what’s left of the natural beauty of this planet. To spread love and joy through the use of literature, photography, music, poetry, and art, to enrich the lives of others through kindness. In essence, if I am a better person, those around me will benefit. This is a journey that will never be easy, there will be pitfalls to traverse and mountains to scale. It is a journey that will never fully be complete until the fulfillment of a life well lived seeps into my bones. This is what I strive for.

I have set myself on a two year time table to “break the chains of security” and start living my life in a fulfilling manner. By May, 2017, I hope to have accomplished these goals:

  • Become fluent in Italian and Spanish.
  • Learn the violin.
  • Professionally record an original song I wrote where I play guitar, mandolin, piano and violin.
  • Write a novel and have it ready to be published.
  • Become adept at landscape photography.
  • Have a poem published (Or worthy of being published).
  • Reduce my ownership of materialistic items.
  • Be more willing to engage people in conversation.
  • Become more physically fit (weight lifting, running, yoga).
  • Reduce my carbon footprint.
  • Eat healthy, local food when possible.
  • Volunteer my time for the benefit of others regularly.
  • Backpack through Europe.
  • Travel at every chance possible.
  • Be willing to experience life even when it’s scary or uncomfortable.

This list could get very specific and drag on endlessly, but this is the general idea. I’m hoping through one of these avenues I will find a way to live outside the societal norm and have a nontraditional occupation that actually makes me happy. What is the point in living a meaningless life that doesn’t even make you happy? I urge you all to do the same, change your lives for the better. Pursue your passions, achieve personal fulfillment and then give back to those around you. Hopefully we can turn the world into a better place, one person at a time. Referencing my favorite Mahatma Ghandi quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Join me on the road to a better, more fulfilling life.

– Brandon