Friday, May 12, 2006

The beauty of the light switch

At this point in my life, I have so many things going on that I wonder why I do this to myself. I enjoy the fact that I have taken on a multitude of ventures. There are so many of them, I am not sure which one to deal with first.

I am amazed at how beautifully the trip to Mexico has come together. One minute, I am wishing that I could spend some time down there studying, and the next minute, I have been accepted as a quasi-intern for two weeks to help bridge the language gap for the company my mom works for. I'll probably be in Durango, Mexico, for the first two weeks of August.

In the rapid search to find a way to get to Mexico, I was also directed toward the Fulbright program. I am now planning on starting the application process to be an English Teaching Assistant in Argentina for their 2008 school year (March through November). This is similar to the Spain program I considered in the past, but with the hemispherical changes in the seasons, Fulbright's Argentina program works nicely with my December 2007 graduation. To be accepted as a Fulbright grantee is a prestigious honor. In some ways, I feel inadequate, but at the same time, I have never come across an opportunity more perfect for me. No kidding, the program description says that they give preference to graduates with degrees in Spanish, English, education, or TESOL. Three out of four ain't bad, I say.

It is unbelievable how much my decision to become a Spanish major has changed my life. Yes, of course, graduating in five-point-five years (instead of four-point-zero) means that I'll be left here in the wake of all my friends (especially my bff/), the two best professors I've ever known, the 762 campus prefix, and a billion other things that I have grown to love that are moving on.

I am tempted to believe that I am just another case of arrested development, being afraid to move on to the "real world" and avoiding it by staying in school. But something tells me that if I had graduated with only a secondary teaching certificate for English, I would have never had the opportunity to become whatever it is that I am bound and determine to become. I haven't quite figured it out yet, but I am not worrying. I feel like I am slowly whittling out my passions, and once I find them, I don't think there is any stopping me. I know. I am usually not the cocky sort (how about that false humility?), but I'm beginning to see how I have inherited a sense of determination from a long line of hard-heads.

This morning at the desk, I have been knitting because I have finished with finals, and I've nothing else to do. And knitting lets me think and be productive at the same time. In the middle of all those thoughts, an image I haven't seen in years appeared in my mind. The house where my parents live -- one of the places I call home -- was my grandparents' before it was ours. Off to the side is what we call the "building". I am not sure, but I think my grandfather built it himself. (The fact that the house and the building are so close together that it's a fire-hazard tells me that, yes, he built it.) He was a man of determination. He was a farmer, but he was also an inventor. Innumerable times have I heard my aunts and uncles tell about how he fashioned tools himself if he needed to do something and didn't have the right gadget -- either because he was frugal farmer or because the tool had not been invented yet. (Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.) I've heard how he invented the automated tobacco-plant setting contraption years before it went on the market.

But this morning, a simpler "invention" came to my mind. I guess you could call it the precursor to the modern light switch. This building off the side of my house is lit by a bulb turned off and on by a chain. The problem my grandfather faced (and probably created himself) is that the bulb is located in the middle of the room. By the time a person clambered over all the monkey wrenches and anvils strewn about the darkened building in order to reach the chain, several bones would be likely broken. He remedied this simply. He tied a long string to the end of the chain and tied the other end of that string to a nail in the door post. When someone walks in the door, all you have to do is pull the string that stretches to the middle of the room and there will be light. My dad, who has filled the building with his own tools, gadgets, and general beloved junk, keeps my grandfather's lighting system in place. A "normal" light switch could easily be implemented by my brother-in-law who is an electrician. But we keep it, I guess in a sort of reverence to my grandfather and his mind.

I am sure he was not the only one to think of this solution to the unreachable chain. But the point is he did think of it. And he implemented his solution. He had a problem and he wasn't going to let it stop him from doing what he wanted to do -- which was to keep both shins in working order. And I think I've inherited this. And maybe I've inherited a bit of his zaniness, too. For example, when he got his cordless phone in the early 90s -- the prehistoric model with an extendable antenna a yard long -- he rigged it to his overalls with a shoestring so that he could carry it with him while he mowed the yard. I, too, have had my own harebrained ideas about what will work and what won't. (The cordless phone lost reception so far away from the base, and he wouldn't have heard it over the lawnmower anyhow.) What I have learned, though, is that if I don't take the risk of looking like an idiot (who can't even graduate on time), my life will be far less beautiful.

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