Five Days Later


I heard an interview with Regina Spektor on Kurt Anderson's PRI show, Studio 360, and found myself humming on the bus this morning. Not only can she sing and play the piano, but she's one of those quietly articulate people who says really intelligent things when provoked.

I want to be one of those people. You know, those eloquent people, who share their strongest opinions in the most convincing and respectful ways. Instead my thoughts often mirror the language pattern of the international students with whom I work: I start the week as a native English speaker, a competent and clear individual, and by Friday I find myself forgetting key verbs or qualifiers.

Today, while waiting for the elevator, my boss asked me about my upcoming trip to Chile.

"When are you going?" she wanted to know.
"Five days later," I said, my voice halting in that oh-so-familiar imitation of an English speaker who is slowly gaining confidence.
"Five days after?" she said.
"Yes." I thought a moment. "I leave for Chile five days after my last day at work."
We both laughed, but I found myself momentarily worried. I claim to be such a good communicator, and yet--I blamed it on the sunny day outside, and the post-lunch blood sugar rise and fall.

Michelle Obama is eloquent. She was in San Francisco recently, at a conference for nonprofits. It is so refreshing to see a strong, intelligent woman role model in the news. A strong, intelligent woman of color in the news. A strong, intelligent, educated woman of color who's going to help change a few things in this confused, multicultural and bizarre land of "plenty." I saw the work she's done with the White House garden and am so thrilled to have a strong, intelligent, educated green woman feeding our country.

Maybe eloquence isn't just about the way you speak or the things you do. Maybe it's about the lifestyle you adopt, the decisions you make, the reasons why you vote. I actually believe that eloquence is the act of remembering to stop before you do anything. And I don't mean stop-and-smell-the-roses; I mean stop, period. Do one thing at a time, and do it entirely. Own who you are, and be proud of it. Ask questions. And then, when you've stopped long enough to accomplish what you're doing, start again.

So, while I might be going to Chile five days later, while I might erupt into low-blood-sugar giggles at inopportune times, while I might not be going to Yale or earning a sizable salary, I am finally learning to stop, breathe, do what I'm doing, and then move on.