Sometimes You’re El Maestro, Sometimes You’re Most Definitely Not


I’m going to tell the team to call me maestro next season, I mentioned to Hayden.

It was in jest, of course. I’d been listening to Mitch Albom’s The Mighty Strings of Frankie Presto. In it, the main character calls his teacher, of course, maestro. Hayden gave me the look. No, she protested.

We could go with guru instead, I offered. They both mean teacher. (I had momentum.)

If you do, I’ll tell the school that you did something awful that you didn’t really do, Hayden threatened. And they’ll have to fire you. This, incidentally, ended the conversation. No maestro. No guru. Just coach, and I’m grateful to have that!

No matter what you call them, teachers pass through our lanes constantly.

Sometimes those teachers aren’t the coaches, friends, and parents we’re eager to learn from. They’re the jackhound who tailgates you on your way to meditation service. They’re the dipshit who doesn’t yield when you’re in a pedestrian crosswalk.

Knowing our place

We spend plenty of time sorting out the meaning of teachers behind our life curriculum.

What about what we’re supposed to teach? We’re not, individually, the center of the universe. Someone right now could use the kind of lesson you’d provide. It might not be in your wheelhouse, as marketing director, or counselor, or carpenter even.

It might be a door held, or passing smile.

It might be giving a young guy having car trouble a little of the coolant you keep in the trunk so his jalopy doesn’t overheat so easily next time. Or it might be a door held open for you and your stroller. More likely, though, and more importantly – we might not recognize the lessons we teach, at all.

This becomes a crucial element: To not devote time to an outline of teachings, but to submit yourself to each end of it.

It’s often a co-op, impossible to distinguish between mentor and student. Like with our kids, you can’t always choose your lesson. Mostly, you can’t. It isn’t in what you’ve prepared to say, it’s in what you’ve said when you haven’t prepared.

And still, somehow, they look up to us.

Happy for others’ happiness

Camdyn scored a ton of goals and played five games, nearly consecutively, on Saturday for a soccer tournament.

It’s just 3v3, Hayden would point out, and it was. Still, that didn’t dissipate any of the nagging humidity or keep the other team from swinging at her ankles. Camdyn had a blast, helping her team to rally in this small-field, high scoring version of the sport.

Hayden also chose to come out to support her sister, all day, under that relentless sun. Like her mom and me, was quite proud of how the littlest Pacheco girl played.

It’s not hard to be happy for others’ success when they share your DNA (and kick butt anyway). Can you feel it, though, for the team that just beat you in the final? Or for those who have more than you, like a car that accelerates when you hit the gas?

I walked around three places Sunday running errands – Southpark Mall, Wal-Mart and Dollar Tree – that will give you about as good a cross-section of your neighbors as any 1-2-3 combo can provide.

I didn’t interact with people much, but I made note of things they might have as blessings: A calmer pace, a purchase they loved, a window display clever enough that they stopped to take pictures of it as they shopped.

One guy gave his girlfriend a hard time about something, and she smacked him playfully with her purse. He feigned mortal injury and she laughed, just as they passed another couple, maybe friends, maybe on an awkward first date.

I saw a man checking out the Maserati parked in the mall, not in awe, but, it seemed, like, “should I get this in black, or white?”

I didn’t want to feel envy or disdain for any of them, for overt reasons and subtle, and I’m happy that I didn’t. How hard would it be to live with that sort of jealousy? Instead, I consciously noted happiness for whatever connection that couple had.

Or the fortune of the man by the car (which might have come from hard work, or as an inheritance – and that either way, at a cost), and that the woman who recorded the creepy moving eyes on the Louis Vuitton would make friends laugh, somewhere.

And happy for myself.

Struggles don’t fade away. On a sunny Sunday, after celebrating birthdays with family and picking up cool sports gear you found cheap online for girls you love, and your car will probably be fine to get you home to those girls … that’s something for gratitude, too.

There’s a lesson in that, isn’t there?

angelou quote learning

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34 thoughts on “Sometimes You’re El Maestro, Sometimes You’re Most Definitely Not

  1. As a classroom teacher I’m always amazed by what the kids remember and liked best throughout the year. At the end of each school year I would ask them this and everyone had a different answer. And teaching doesn’t always happen in the classroom. I would venture to say that it only happens about 10% there. Teacher, maestro, guru, Jedi, Coach… all the same 🙂

    1. Things stick, though, Eric. We all learn differently, but that they’re holding onto what you teach, that’s something.

      Teaching’s best forum happens in the arena of life, brother. I’m still learning a ton. Failing and learning.

  2. The other day I went to pick up my daughter Zoey from summer school. As I stepped outside into the playground, I saw her playing with a little boy over in the sandbox, so I called her name, expecting her to come running up to me, filled with excitement as she always does. But she didn’t.

    Her teacher gently placed her hand on my arm and said, “Wait. Listen.”

    That moment — the moment where I listened to that teacher to listen to the sounds she wanted me to hear — revealed so much: Zoey was kneeling next to the boy, chattering away, as she helped him build a sand castle. “You need a good foundation,” she said, “Or it won’t stay strong.” And the little boy kept trying, even when it kept falling, and Zoey kept patiently helping, trying to build that foundation stronger and stronger each time. And I kept quiet, so I could listen. So I could remember.

    Because there’s a lesson in that, isn’t there?

    Teachers are all around, and each of them, in their own ways, provide a foundation for all of us. They teach us the important things and trust that we will remember — I listen to the teachers that I found around me, so I can then pass down the lessons they are teaching me. Because that way, everyone wins, and the sandcastles have a better chance of standing their ground.

    I believe in some way or another, we are saying the same things here. I’m sure you understand.

    Thank you, guru Eli, for these wonderful teaching moments. I may not remember every word of your posts, but I do know the way they make me feel, which is pretty darn inspired and, most of all, abundantly grateful that I get to inhibit this little slice of virtual space with you.

  3. I love the it’s what you said when you haven’t.prepared”, so true! I have always loved the quote that you ended with.So important.
    Great post Maestro! 🙂

    1. Thanks! I just feel like we can take notes and bring note cards as a parent, but it all goes out the window when the puck drops.

      That Maya Angelou quote is classic, but it seemed to fit today’s sentiment. Thank you so much!

  4. There is a lesson in everything or I like to look for one anyways. The quote is great and 100% on point. I love watching people be happy. It makes my heart happy too. Happiness is contagious!

    1. There definitely are lessons, and sometimes we ignore them, don’t we Kim? I can’t think of a quote that expresses just what we’re talking about more accurately, either.

      It’s impossible, unless you’re jealous, to not find happiness in others’ bliss. I find that is a great lift to my own spirits to think of others first, if I feel down.

      Let’s spread happiness like a bad rash!

  5. Hmm, I like guru. Remember the Maestro on Seinfeld? There it is again, that Seinfeld connection….
    Really great words on finding happiness and appreciating it for what it is without turning it into the green monster of jealousy. That is such a tough battle that I bet every person on Earth struggles with.
    That Maya Angelou quote is gold! I hear that repeated often by … surprise, surprise: Rush Limbaugh. It goes hand in hand with, “Actions speak louder than words.”

    1. I dig guru, too, Katherine. I do remember Seinfeld’s maestro! Always a Seinfeld connection. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

      I find that when you’re consciously happy for someone’s good fortune, you can’t default to jealousy.

      I think that quote resonates with so many people, and serves as a reminder that although we’re stellar at drawing lines between us, there’s more there that binds us than meets the eye.

      1. LOL! Classic line, any situation…

        Yes, well said. I wish more people would remember that there is indeed FAR more that binds us than divides us. But that’s an optimist’s view, isn’t it?!

  6. Excellent post. I believe we are all here to teach one another something. And jealousy is a waste of time, we have no idea of anyone’s struggles even if it looks like they have it all.

    1. Thank you, Ellen. I’m all for the lessons. Right now, I’m jealous only of anyone who is sitting in front of a plate of enchiladas, mostly because I am not.

  7. There are lessons to be learned in all things, always, if we pay close enough attention. We don’t always, but I love to see you tuned in and observing the big and small minutia of everyday life. Also jealousy is a sensation I used to feel often; I don’t as often anymore, because I’ve learned that we each have our own struggles and coveting something someone else has… well who knows what happens behind the scenes, eh?

    Thanks for sharing. I still remember Mrs. Maloy, my 8th grade English teacher, who taught me the lesson of the Tell Tale Heart. I think of her so often, and how she instilled in me a love of literature ❤

    1. They’re always there, Charlotte. I think you live in the same way, and I wanted to include the story of what happened to you the other day, because it played into what I wrote.

      Jealousy is like Sbarro pizza in the mall. It looks good from afar, but when it comes down to it, it’s not really all that good.

      Thanks for your insightful words. I love that you remember Mrs. Maloy for that! Lessons we don’t realize we’re imparting have the longest lasting value sometimes.

  8. People ALWAYS remember how you made them feel. I know I DO! I don’t envy too many people. But I know there are those who envy me… I did not used to understand that in one way but I get it more now. I was groaning to a friend of mine, who is very wise, about something someone said to me once. I was bitching about the fact they were making wrong assumptions about me and didn’t understand how it really was!! She said very calmly “Do you know what your life looks like from the outside?” As I just looked at her with an open mouth, she proceeded to tell me how my life was perceived by others… I said, “But how can they possibly think that?? It isn’t like that AT ALL!!!!” I groaned some more…
    “Kim, people need to have others in their life they can look up to, aspire to, emulate etc. and you may not want that responsibility, but you have it chick! Whether you want it or not!” Ugh… now! THAT’S NOT FAIR!!! People do not know me!! Granted.. I don’t let many in but if anyone “knows” me at all, they know how it really is. I absolutely abhor people who make assumptions! You know what they say about ASSUME? It makes an ASS of U and ME! *steps off soapbox* sorry… needed to vent about that one I guess :-/

    1. I can feel the levity of letting go of the opinions of people who don’t care for me. It’s also important to realize that there those out there who think the world of you, and feel you’re living a charmed life – even if you do feel run down at times.

      Glad you could vent here. I have absolved myself of (most) venting, even for the couple who took up space on the fairway of No. 9 at the disc golf course this morning, fighting with wooden swords!

      They got out of the way, at least, but why there? I just played through and didn’t give them a second thought, but I did give them a smile.

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