Learning a New Language

For a long time I thought learning a new language at this point in my life was kind of futile. I was under the impression that if you don’t learn a language when you are a baby, it’s almost impossible to learn it. If you think about it though, that seems like it can’t be right. As adults we know basic sentence structure, parts of speech, grammar etc. and even if it’s not the same for all languages we know it does exist in some way for most all languages. That should make it easier, no?

What makes learning a language difficult as an adult is that it is so much easier to speak in our native language. Our minds are predisposed to our first language and so it’s hard to think in a new or different way. But ultimately learning a new language is like learning any other skill. It takes, patience, practice, and perseverance. All of that is hard when you already speak one language fluently because not being able to properly communicate is frustrating and so it is easy to fall back on the form of communication that we know.

Currently I’m learning Spanish and I’m starting Japanese, both of which I’ve been primarily been learning on my own using Duolingo. I have co-workers also trying to learn Spanish and we have “Spanish Club” after work every* week were we meet up for a drink or something and we try to speak only in Spanish.

For me learning new languages is about being able to connect with more people in my personal life and being able to accomodate more people in my professional life. And honestly, I’ve been having a lot of fun with it.

 

 

*we try to do it every week, but it does not always happen 😦

Not Yet

I was expecting to get some pretty important news today, but it never came. Trying not to read too much into what that might mean, but I can’t help but feel so anxious.

I feel like I’ve probably mentioned this quote before, but if so, it’s worth repeating. It’s from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, “Everything will be alright in the end… and if it’s not alright, it’s not yet the end.”

Now, I’m not a big believer in destiny. I believe people carve their own paths and determine their own fate. For me though, this quote is not about trusting that a higher power has predetermined my good fortune, this quote is about mental orientation. If I believe that things will end well, then they will. What happens in my future may not be or look like I once imagined, but if I maintain my focus on the good, even in the midst of disappointment and sadness, every possible outcome can be in my favor.

Conan O’brien and Stephen Colbert talked a little bit about this on Conan’s podcast, and I think it’s something that seems to be common in many of the great success stories throughout history; that often times the greatest opportunities and experiences of our lives present themselves in ways we did not expect. I’m not trying to compare myself to any of those great successes. More than anything I am trying to convince myself that just because things may not have happened the way I expected them to, that doesn’t mean I can’t make the most of it.

Finally, a lot of this makes me think about all the things I have to be thankful for in my life, my family, my friends, my coworkers, my teachers, my mentors, I probably go on for a while. I am surrounded by people who love and support me, and who push me to be better every day. I would not be who I am or where I am without these amazing, beautiful people in my life.

Much love,

Niko

Happy National Clam Chowder Day

This one’s dedicated to you. You’re my inspiration 🙂

Clam chowder holds a special place in my heart as my favorite of the chowders. I like comparing clam chowders from different places. My current and long-time favorite is from Breakwater Restaurant in Santa Barbara. The clams are large and plentiful and the chowder has a very small but notable kick to it. If you get it in a sourdough bread bowl, the bowl is pretty much perfect. Crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. The crust is not hard or stale or hard to tear, it feels fresh.

Clam chowder is always there to save the day when I have trouble deciding what to order. I have a reason choose it; I want to compare it to other clam chowders, thus ordering it at a new restaurants can never be a bad choice. Though when I think about it I put way too much thought into what I should eat at restaurants.

Misunderstood

Someone I considered pretty close to me likes to say, “He always has to be right,” or “He gets-off on proving people wrong,” in reference to me. Whether it’s in a joking/ teasing way or not, I’m not gonna lie, this kinda gets to me. I don’t consider myself a know-it-all. I do enjoy sharing what I do know with others, and maybe that’s what gives me the vibe of an arrogant know-it-all. But I enjoy sharing things with others because personally I like learning and knowing new things.

I value truth very highly. If I hear something that is contrary to my understanding I will say something. I’m not trying to make anyone look bad, but I think it is important that myths and misconceptions are addressed. Ok, maybe I do have a tendency to make corrections to even the most trivial of statements. That’s just kinda who I am. If I don’t know something, I’ll almost always look it up. That being said I am the first to acknowledge when I am wrong. If my understanding of something is contrary to the latest, most accurate evidence I would gladly embrace that truth, but I don’t take it personally. Maybe I get a little embarrassed, especially if I defended my position (which I think is 100% valid), but it doesn’t hurt my feelings.

Perhaps this is something that I need to take a step back on so I can look at how I interact with others. If am perceived to be arrogant, that makes it harder to connect with people, which ultimately inhibits me. I will never apologize for advocating for truth and for facts, but I will try to be better about how I approach sharing information and how I address potential misunderstandings, and I hope others will do the same.

Take a Breath, Break it Down, and Take it Slow…

I recently started taking piano lessons again after a brief hiatus of about maybe 15+ years. Quitting piano was always a big regret of mine, but then again maybe if I did stick with it I wouldn’t have the same appreciation for it that I do now. Who knows, but anyways all that matters is that I am where I am now.

My current teacher is really awesome. The lessons are fun and I’ve been learning a lot. She is kind of a stickler for form and technique, but it’s actually  been really helpful. And not gonna lie, when she demonstrated a piece for me it was so beautiful I just about started crying.

Ahem — anyways

There are plenty of things about starting to learn piano again that I think are applicable to life in general:

  • When things get difficult or frustrating don’t give up, take a breath, break it down, and take it slow.
  • Proficiency doesn’t just happen overnight, it takes time, patience, and focus.
  • Proficiency kinda happens overnight, make sure to get a good night’s sleep.
  • The small stuff matters, but don’t be upset if you forget about it every now and then, and just be more careful next time.
  • If you’ve been doing it wrong this whole time, it’s never too late to fix it (turns out I had no idea how to properly use the pedal).
  • Find joy in everything you do, even the mundane and tiresome.
  • Just because something is simple does not mean it lacks depth.
  • Just because something is complex does not mean it has depth.
  • Doing something the same way over and over doesn’t mean you are getting better at it.
  • Know when it’s time to take a break.

These are the big ones I can think of now, if more come up I may add them in later.

What hobbies do you have and in what ways does it affect other practices in your life?

Lazy Town

Ever have one of those days (or several days) where you can’t bring yourself to be productive, or as productive as you’d like? Happens to me constantly. Some days I’ll feel like I am on a roll, others it’s a struggle to get off my ass to perform basic functions (like eating and defecating).

Somewhat ironically to me, even though I think this is a common phenomenon, I am least productive on my most free days. When I have nothing going on work-wise, I would like to think I can use all that time to work on personal projects. But sometimes it just doesn’t happen. I’ll make some progress here and there, but not nearly as much as I would like, which then can lead to guilt, and a decrease in motivation. On the flip-side, sometimes when I know I have a full day ‘s scheduled, I am more efficient and productive with my time, and can focus on projects, both work and personal for their allotted times. Sometimes I get more done in thirty minutes on a busy day than I do in an hour of a open day.

Some days my lack of productivity is the result of something occupying my mind, usually something that I am looking forward to. Interestingly, other days that same thing can cause me to be hyper-productive. It seems to be a matter of how I direct my energy. If I dwell on that future “reward” and let it completely consume me, I am unproductive. However, if I use the “reward” as a motivator and distract myself with tasks and projects, I get more done and time goes by faster and I get “rewarded” faster.

It’s funny how I always look forward to days where I can do nothing, but those days often make me feel terrible. Whereas busy, productive days make me feel fulfilled, confident, motivated, and useful.

The Magic-est of Mountains

This is somewhat of an appendix to yesterday’s post, specifically the idea of it being better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

My friend Aaron once asked (from a book of questions) if I’d rather live a turbulent life, with really low lows, but really high highs, or a static life, where I was moderately happy all the time. At the time I opted for the static one, thinking it to be the safer and more practical of the two. Looking back I definitely would change my answer, and to be honest, I have no idea what possessed me to choose static in the first place.

Of course it’s all hypothetical, and one probably could make a compelling argument for either case, but I’m at a point in my life where I think all situations good or bad, are ultimately good, or rather can lead to good. The lows helps us avoid complacency, and helps us better appreciate the good. The lows allow us to learn and to grow. Without lows we’d all just a bunch of dumb rocks, but at least rocks have no capacity for intelligence so wouldn’t be expected to be anything else. Actually, one could argue that makes them perfect. In fact, yes! We should all aspire to, like rocks and vegetables, achieve our own individual potentials, and the only way to do that is to fuel our potential-chariot with the coals of our failure and sadness.

….sorry that got a little out of hand….

But relationships and love to play a big part in that. There is always something to be learned from a relationship regardless of the outcome, and with the right mindset, loving recklessly and unapologetically can only increase your capacity to love and be loved.

Happy (Belated) Valentine’s Day

This was meant to be a Valentine’s Day post but I had some issues with the site which ironically kept me from posting for two days after a post about writing every day… so without further ado, here is the V-Day Special. 

Next up on phrase interpretation/ dissection, “Never Settle,” specifically in the context of relationships.

Disclaimer: I have spent the majority of my 23 years on earth single, which could mean either a great deal or very little depending on who you ask.

There is a certain restlessness to this phrase that to me is consistent with today’s culture. I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting the best for ourselves, but do I feel like we all have an idea of what our we want in a relationship or in an significant other, but often that doesn’t image line up perfectly with reality. There is a tendency to pass up good opportunities in relationship or otherwise because we have this idea in our heads that somewhere out there is something better. We often get caught up in looking to the next best thing rather than what is right in front of us.

Here’s a list of thing you might consider settling for:

Settle for someone who makes you feel loved just as you are, but somehow also makes you want to be the best possible version of yourself.

Settle for someone who makes your feel like your love is enough.

Settle for someone who doesn’t make you feel like you need to compromise your values or your integrity to be with them.

Settle for someone who makes you want to wake up at 5am everyday just so you can see their face.

Settle for someone who makes you want to fix your bed in the morning.

Settle for someone who doesn’t mind your cheesy compliments.

Ok yea, so this is not a low bar to settle for, but again I never said it should be. If someone makes you “feel some type-o-way” as the kids say, see where it goes, ’cause I also think that people use “never settle” as an excuse to not pursue something out of fear. Don’t be every be afraid to love someone, especially for fear that they won’t love you back, or that things might not work out. I am a huge subscriber of the idea that is is better to have loved and lost that not to have loved at all. And genuine love in any form can only make the world brighter.