The first student was a young actress who needed to learn some lines in perfect Italian. Not your run of the mill student but this is LA after all, and I took it as a good omen. She was pretty and eager and we had a great time pretending to be an Italian mama in the 1930’s. First assignment completed. They might not all be this easy. The need to replenish my coffers has pushed me to seek part-time work that is better compensated than cake making so,last Monday, I started teaching Italian. What do I know about it, other than speaking it fluently? Not a lot but I have a talent for improvisation and an enthusiasm for treading on the unbeaten path.
My friend Silvia recently pointed out that curious could be my middle name. I am the annoying person who will egg you on to drive a little tiny bit farther, to see what’s around the bend; who will eat strange food; who will sit at a traffic light and learn about Joe the panhandler and his previous business detailing cars; who will travel pretty much anywhere because there must be something interesting no matter where and who will have you spill the beans on your secret before you know it. Like most introverts, I love to listen. And read, mostly books; and magazines when I am with sofagirl – her voracity for magazines (and dubious tv shows) cannot be matched. It’s not a coincidence I am attracted to people who collect minutia and random facts.
There are many flaws in me I could happily live without but the curiosity that has fostered a certain kind of adventure I wouldn’t trade for anything.
A couple of weeks ago, I celebrated my birthday with strenuous hike I had never done before, in the Malibu mountains. The first half was a gentle path that led to some small and dried up waterfall but, to get to the big kahuna, we had to continue on, climbing some pretty vertical rocks, aided by ropes and, hopefully, good hiking shoes. I was by far the oldest person on the trail, with everyone else barely out of teenage hood. Most descending hikers were slipping and sliding inelegantly on their butts and I made it my mission not only to get to the top, but also to come down without soiling my pants. There are no photos to document this achievement: I was too busy holding on to ropes and trying not to break my neck, but I did it. Yes, the waterfalls were pretty and all that but, what was unbeatable, was the sense of accomplishing something different, something a bit out of my comfort zone. And I took it as a good omen that my year would be filled with adventure and fulfilled curiosity.
Now I have to figure out a way to teach Italian to willing adults, in a way that is fun and not pedantic and, hopefully, makes sense. I am brushing up on grammar rules I haven’t thought of, for good reason, in four decades. And those Italian verbs are as bitchy as every foreigner complains of. I might be doing it for the money but, mostly, because I am unable to pass up an opportunity that makes sense when it shows on my doorstep. Which is why, when my friend Luisa suggested I join the ranks of the teaching staff at the ritzy school she teaches at, I couldn’t see the downside of trying.
Who knew that the girl who used to turn down invitations out of shyness would learn to push herself in spite of it, egged on by her curiosity?
Recently, a reader commented that she hopes her 60’s won’t be a carbon copy of her 40’s, that fear of failing won’t stop her from pursuing new experiences as she gets older. While still nine years away from my 60’s, I am here to vouch for the liberating feeling of reinvention and discovery I have been experiencing in the last few years. Somehow, the emotional baggage gets shed along the way and so does the need to prove oneself. With pesky wrinkles and sagging skin also come a self-assurance we could have killed for a couple of decades ago. Might as well enjoy it.
All photos found in the public domain