I was learning Spanish.
I went to a weekly language class, practiced vocab on the subway, and listened to Dr. Seuss en Español.
My language class was in the same building as Tucker Carlson’s office. One evening, the political pundit exited as I entered and he held the door for me.
“Gracias! Señor!” I’d just been practicing and the words shot out of my mouth. He gave a little wave. And I walked to class, confident that Tucker Carlson thought Spanish was my mother tongue.
But Mr. Carlson would have been one of the few to think that. While I listened to El Gato Ensombrerado and read vocab cards, I rarely spoke in Spanish. I was too vain.
I’d worn tiger and lobster costumes in public and belly-flopped repeatedly while attempting to swan dive at crowded city pools. I was okay looking absurd.
I was not okay looking stupid. My vanity was tied up in looking intelligent. And speaking incomprehensible Spanish didn’t fit with the image I had of myself.
After six months of silent practice, my vanity and I couldn’t speak a full sentence in Spanish. It took me half a year of wasted effort to realize vanity is too limiting to move us forward. So, it holds us back. And back is not where we belong.
I also realized we can put our vanity aside, if only for a moment. And in that moment, we move forward, we grow more into the full people we are.
I’ve logged a few moments. I have many more to go before anyone besides Tucker Carlson thinks Spanish is my mother tongue.
These moments might not fit the image we have of ourselves. When I attempted to wish colleagues a Happy New Year, I wished them a Happy New Anus instead.
But an image is nothing compared to the full people we are.