A Radiant Beam of Light

A moment of positivity is a wonderful thing. It can untangle a knot of insecurity in one radiant beam. Recently, I was reminded of this at parent-teacher conferences for my son.

I was chatting with my son’s Spanish teacher, Mr. Owens. As we were wrapping up, I looked over my shoulder to see if the next parent was waiting in line. Nope. Excellent, because I wasn’t ready to leave. Not just yet.

I had a question I’d been fretting about for 25 years. And because Mr. Owens seemed so caring and positive, I made up my mind: the time was right to ask it.

But first, let’s flashback to 1978. I was in junior high Spanish class, Day 1. Señorita Currie briskly entered the classroom and spoke to us in Spanish…exclusively. Uh-oh. As the period progressed, the other students seemed to catch on. I did not, however. I had no idea what she was saying.

For the next 45 minutes, my heart raced and my ears buzzed. A knot of insecurity formed in my stomach. “How will I ever survive this class?” I worried.

Well, I did survive, because I learned how to compensate with written homework. But my struggle to understand conversation followed me through four years of study. Privately, I came to an obvious, disappointing conclusion – “I’m not good at languages.”

Now, flash forward to 2012 — full-blown adult life. After a whirlwind, first-ever trip to France, I fell in love with Paris and vowed, “I will return someday!” To keep the dream alive, I decided to take a French class.

Starting a new language was exhilarating! But, as I advanced, the deer-in-the-headlight feeling returned.

So did the nagging belief I’m not good at languages. And this time, with the help of the internet, I had even identified a plausible self-diagnosis – “auditory processing disorder.” (Thanks, Dr. Google).

Finally, let’s return to 2015. I’m now sitting across the table from Mr. Owens, and I see my opportunity. Surely, in his years of teaching Spanish, he’s come across students with my condition. Surely, he could shed light on this, once and for all.

So, I took a deep breath, and my question tumbled out: “Are some people not able to learn a language?”

He paused and quizzically replied, “Tell me more.” I quickly poured out my story, complete with my armchair diagnosis. (I know this probably sounds ridiculously dramatic, but I was feeling very vulnerable. I braced myself, ready for confirmation that, indeed, there was no hope for me. Au revoir, Paris.)

But that’s not what came next.

Smiling, Mr. Owens said, “I think learning a language is a lot like an unfolding flower. It takes time to unfold.” Then, he leaned forward and added, “You speak English beautifully. You learned that language well.”

I was speechless. As his words sunk in, I began to grin from ear-to-ear. I learned to speak English. Of course, I can learn another language!


A 25-year insecurity, a false belief, was untangled by one radiant beam of light. I’m sure Mr. Owens had no idea how much his words meant to me.

A moment of positivity is a wonderful thing.

Merci beaucoup, Monsieur Owens. Merci.

How about you? Is there a limiting belief that is holding on to you? Is it time to bring it into the light?

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