¿Qué te gusta hacer?

Books in Spanish and French

“Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life.”

That quote has always seemed a little “baloney-ish” to me, the purview of the privileged. Even a google search for the source of the quote suggests that it’s not really a thing. It’s attributed to both Confucius and singer Marc Anthony—how can that be real?

Then there’s also the conundrum of the logical next statement: “wonderful…if only I could figure out what I love to do.” Then all the ‘live your true life’ consultants (a search for life coach on twitter yields over 3M results) will say “The thing you love is the thing you would do even if you didn’t get paid.” Does anyone know how to monetize drinking wine and watching Castle re-runs (at the same time!)?

But let’s say you forced yourself to answer that question. What do you love to do? I’ve always envied those people who knew at five that they wanted to be a doctor, or had a pronounced skill (say, playing the piano) and were good enough to make a living at it.

But in asking the question again and again I have claimed something I’ve loved doing since my first Spanish class with Mrs. Gonzalez at age 12… speaking other languages. To me—it is absolutely fascinating how you can connect across cultures that way. I started taking Spanish when I was 12, came back from an exchange program to Mexico at 15 and started studying French. In college I studied Comparative Literature—the degree required reading and writing papers in the original language (where I fell in love with the existentialists—I cannot pass a blindingly sunny day on a white beach without thinking of Camus’ L’Etranger.)

And then fell in love and married a man from Brazil, subsequently learning Portuguese. Chris Brogan, CEO of Owner Media Group talks about identifying your big goals and setting up “wins” to get there. So my goal is to solicit more clients who are non-native English speakers—for English writing consulting, or for marketing.

My win? These silly Spanish and French language books from Blaine Ray and TPRS Books. The story lines are terrible—they are two dimensional and written for a 6th grader (I mean that literally-that’s who they are written for). But, DUH! That’s why I understand them. And that is really fun—to be able to read in another langauge. And, yes, it delights me that I can read in Spanish or French and understand without translating in my mind first. What’s also amazing is that the more I read it unlocks all of that vocabulary learned so many years ago. (For the Portuguese I got a book with actual literature and magazine articles—harder, but manageable.)

Aside from volunteering with Partners of the Americas and being able to help native Spanish speakers find the bathroom when I worked at O’Hare, I haven’t used my language skills at work. But what I’m hoping is to continue to be more fluid in bilingual environments, to court more clients who are native Spanish or Portuguese speakers—e.g. companies who want to do business in the US or even more specifically in Chicago—who need help with training on “how to do business with Americans” or marketing to Americans or marketing strategy in general for the US Market.

There, I’ve said it out loud. Now I can see it.

What about you? What do you love to do? Have you always known, or is your life the ongoing path of discovery?