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1175 Getting a Fresh Start

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,175 – Getting a Fresh Start.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1,175. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Visit our website at ESLPod.com. Become a member of ESL Podcast and download the Learning Guide for this episode. The Learning Guide contains a complete transcript of everything we say plus all of the vocabulary words, definitions, sample sentences, cultural notes, and a whole lot more. Take a look on our website for more information.

This dialogue is all about getting a fresh start – beginning your life anew. Well, let’s get started ourselves.

[start of dialogue]

Nico: I’m moving to Atlanta. I want a fresh start.

Celia: This is a surprise. I thought you were going to stick it out here and try to put the past behind you.

Nico: There are too many reminders here. I want a clean slate. What’s done is done and I’m tired of blame and recriminations.

Celia: I’m glad to hear you’ve stopped beating yourself up over what’s happened, but are you sure moving away will help you move on?

Nico: The world is my oyster now, isn’t it? I can live anywhere I want to and do anything I want to.

Celia: I guess so, but are you sure you want to uproot and leave town?

Nico: I’m not trying to reinvent myself, but if I’m going to start over, I might as well do it in a new town.

Celia: I guess a new town is a good place to start a new life, and maybe you’ll find a new love. Many people bounce back from a difficult divorce.

Nico: I’ve sworn off women. The only female I want in my life right now is my dog, Fifi!

[end of dialogue]

We’re getting a fresh start on this episode – a new opportunity to do things differently. Nico in the dialogue says he’s moving to Atlanta. Atlanta is a city in the state of Georgia, in the southeast part of the U.S. Nico says he wants “a fresh start.” Celia is surprised. In fact, she says, “This is a surprise. I thought you were going to stick it out here and try to put the past behind you.”

“To stick it out” means to continue to do something even though it is difficult, even though it may be challenging. “To put the past behind you” means to no longer worry about what happened before. It can also mean, sometimes, to no longer do the bad things that you used to do. “To put the past behind you” means to focus on the future or on what you’re doing right now and no longer worry about what you did before. Celia thought that Nico was going to put the past behind him and stay here, wherever “here” is in our dialogue.

But Nico says, “There are too many reminders here.” A “reminder” (reminder) is something that makes you remember something. It could be something you have to do now, or could be something that you did once many years ago or anytime in your past. That second meaning is what Nico is using here when he says, “There are too many reminders here.” He means there are too many things that make him remember bad things that happened to him.

He says, “I want a clean slate” (slate). A “slate” is a kind of writing surface, something you write on. A “clean slate” would be a new starting point. It’s basically the same as a “fresh start.” “To have a clean slate” means that you don’t worry about anything in the past. A clean slate means you don’t worry about or don’t consider anything that has already been done. Nico says, “What’s done is done and I’m tired of blame and recriminations.”

The expression “what’s done is done” is a somewhat unusual one, but basically it says, “I’m not going to worry about what has happened in the past because I can’t change it.” Although Shakespeare wasn’t the first person to use this expression, people often associate it with him because he uses it in his play, Macbeth. Lady Macbeth says, “What’s done is done,” and later she adds, “What’s done cannot be undone.” “To undo” something would be to reverse something that has happened. And of course, you can’t go back and change the past – what’s done is done.

Nico says he’s tired of “blame” (blame) and “recriminations” (recriminations). “Blame” is the responsibility for doing something wrong. We usually use the expression “take the blame.” “I will take the blame” means I will take responsibility; I will take the consequences of what has gone wrong here. “Recriminations” refer to what we call “accusations.” “To accuse” (accuse) someone is to say that someone did something wrong. “Accusation” is the noun form, from the verb “to accuse.”

“Recriminations” are accusations that Person A makes against Person B after Person B has already made an accusation against Person A. So for example, you say that I did something wrong, and I say, “Well, you did something wrong.” You see, I am accusing you of something after you have already accused me of doing something wrong.

Celia says, “I’m glad to hear you’ve stopped beating yourself up over what’s happened.” “To beat yourself up” over something means to criticize yourself too much – to be, we might say, “overly critical.” To be unable to forgive yourself is to beat yourself up over something. Celia says, “Are you sure moving away will help you move on?” “To move on” means to no longer think about something that has happened, something bad that has happened, and to plan for the future.

Nico says, “The world is my oyster now, isn’t it?” The expression, “The world is my oyster” (oyster) means that you can do whatever you want. You have freedom, perhaps money, or other things that will allow you to do whatever you want. Nico says, “I can live anywhere I want to and do anything I want to.”

Celia says, “I guess so, but are you sure you want to uproot and leave town?” “To uproot” means to move yourself from one place to a completely different place. We sometimes use that verb when you are not only moving, but you are breaking off your relationships from the place where you live now and going to a completely new place where you don’t know anyone.

Nico says, “I’m not trying to reinvent myself, but if I’m going to start over, I might as well do it in a new town.” “To reinvent yourself” would mean to change yourself significantly – to change your personality, perhaps, or to start acting in a way that is completely different from the way you acted in the past. “To start over” means to begin again. It’s similar to having a fresh start. Nico says, “I might as well do it in a new town.” The phrase “might (might) as well” is used to show that two different ideas are equal and there’s no really good reason to select one over the other. It doesn’t really matter.

For example, it’s four o’clock in the afternoon and you’re working on a project, but in order to work more on the project, you need to talk to your boss. Your boss isn’t in the office, so you say, “Well, I might as well go home because I can’t do anything on this project until I talk to my boss.” Of course, if you’re supposed to stay at your work until five o’clock, your boss might not be very happy that you left, but in your mind there wasn’t any advantage for you to stay at your office because you couldn’t continue working on the project. So you chose another option, which was to go home.

Nico says he might as well start over in a new town. It won’t matter. Celia says, “I guess a new town is a good place to start a new life, and maybe you’ll find a new love. Many people bounce back from a difficult divorce.” “To bounce (bounce) back” from something means to recover from something, to get your happiness back, or to perhaps get your physical health back. We could talk about someone “bouncing back” from an illness – getting healthy again, getting stronger again.

Nico says, “I’ve sworn off women.” “To swear (swear) off” means to promise not to do something again. “I am swearing off drinking beer.” I’m never going to drink beer again. I’m promising never to drink beer again. That’s “to swear off” something. In this case, Nico is swearing off women. He’s not going to get involved romantically with another woman.

Nico says, “The only female I want in my life right now is my dog, Fifi.” A “female” (female) is the opposite of a “male” (male). “Male” and “female” are sexes. The human race has a “male” and a “female.” Many animals – most animals, I would think – have male and female members. If you don’t know the difference between males and females, I’m not really the person to tell you.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Nico: I’m moving to Atlanta. I want a fresh start.

Celia: This is a surprise. I thought you were going to stick it out here and try to put the past behind you.

Nico: There are too many reminders here. I want a clean slate. What’s done is done and I’m tired of blame and recriminations.

Celia: I’m glad to hear you’ve stopped beating yourself up over what’s happened, but are you sure moving away will help you move on?

Nico: The world is my oyster now, isn’t it? I can live anywhere I want to and do anything I want to.

Celia: I guess so, but are you sure you want to uproot and leave town?

Nico: I’m not trying to reinvent myself, but if I’m going to start over, I might as well do it in a new town.

Celia: I guess a new town is a good place to start a new life, and maybe you’ll find a new love. Many people bounce back from a difficult divorce.

Nico: I’ve sworn off women. The only female I want in my life right now is my dog, Fifi!

[end of dialogue]

If you want to a fresh start for your English, listen to the wonderful dialogues by our wonderful scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2015 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
fresh start – a new beginning; an opportunity to stop doing things the way one has always done them, and instead begin living in a new way

* Transferring to a new school will give the kids a fresh start, with new friends and new teachers.

to stick it out – to continue to do something even though it is challenging, difficult, or uncomfortable

* Their marriage has a lot or problems, but they’re working with a counselor and trying to stick it out.

to put the past behind (one) – to stop worrying about what has happened before and instead focus on the present moment and the future

* I’m trying to put the past behind me, but I just can’t forgive Ida for what she did.

reminder – something that makes one think about the past, especially if one would prefer not to think about it

* Blake keeps an empty beer bottle on the shelf as a reminder of his struggles to break his addiction to alcohol.

clean slate – a new starting point that does not include any of one’s past mistakes, allowing one a new start

* Let’s stop trying to place blame on each other and start with a clean slate.

what’s done is done – a phrase used to show resignation and acceptance that things cannot be changed and one must stop worrying about it and instead focus on what is happening now or what will happen in the future

* I made some mistakes, but what’s done is done. I’ve apologized and I can’t change it, so let’s move forward.

blame – responsibility for a wrong or negative action or decision

* You can’t lay all the blame on Bradley. Other people were involved, too.

recrimination – an accusation made by Person A against Person B after Person B has already made an accusation against Person A

* The murderer’s crimes were terrible, but hearing his recrimination against his victims and their families was even worse.

to beat (oneself) up – to be overly self-critical and harsh toward oneself; to be unable to forgive oneself and to continue punishing oneself

* Kristy is really beating herself up for missing the application deadline.

to move on – to stop thinking too much about things that have happened in the past, and instead live in the present and make plans for the future

* You broke up with your girlfriend six months ago. Don’t you think it’s time to move on and start dating other people?

the world is (one’s) oyster – a phrase meaning that one can have and do anything one wants, especially because one has freedom, money, and other resources

* Rasheem just graduated from college with a degree in information technology and three good job offers. The world is his oyster!

to uproot – to abruptly move out of a familiar location or environment, especially breaking relationships with friends and family members, to go into a new environment where one has no attachments

* Do you think it’s damaging to children’s development if they are uprooted, moved across the country, and forced to attend a new school?

to reinvent (oneself) – to assume a new identity; to significantly change one’s behavior and/or appearance so that other people have a different perception or understanding of oneself

* Between high school and college, Quentin reinvented himself by lifting weights and running to make himself look stronger, healthier, and more attractive.

to start over – to start again from the beginning, either undoing or erasing or forgetting things that have happened previously

* When Brent got remarried, it was an opportunity to start over.

might as well – a phrase used to show that two things are equal, and there is no strong reason to do or select one thing over the other

* In this job, I can barely make enough money to cover childcare expenses, so I might as well quit and stay home with the kids.

to bounce back – to recover; to regain one’s former level of energy, happiness, or power

* The bankruptcy was difficult, but the company was able to bounce back within two years.

to swear off – to say or promise that one will no longer have or do something

* The doctor wants me to swear off cigarettes, but it’s going to be difficult.

female – a woman or girl; relating to a girl or woman or a female animal

* Clinton is the only man in an office full of females.

Comprehension Questions
1. What does Nico mean when he says, “I want a clean slate”?
a) He wants people to listen to him.
b) He wants to start over.
c) He wants to become a teacher.

2. What does Nico mean when he says, “I’ve sworn off women”?
a) He is very angry at women.
b) He doesn’t want anything to do with women.
c) He wants to become a woman.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to move on

The phrase “to move on,” in this podcast, means to stop thinking too much about things that have happened in the past, and instead live in the present and make plans for the future: “Our last project failed, but let’s move on and try something else.” The phrase “to move into” means to begin living in a new place: “When will you move into the new apartment?” The phrase “to move out” means to stop living in a particular place: “Janice kept fighting with her roommate, so she decided to move out and find another place to live.” Finally, the phrase “to move away” means to live in a different area, far from one’s family and friends: “After college, a lot of my friends moved away to get jobs in the big city.”

to swear off

In this podcast, the phrase “to swear off” means to say or promise that one will no longer have or do something: “Shane has saved thousands of dollars since he swore off gambling.” The verb “to swear” means to use profanities or vulgar and offensive language: “Please don’t swear around the children.” The verb “to swear” can also mean to promise or to state that something is true: “I swear I didn’t tell anyone your secret.” The phrase “to swear by (something)” means to state how good, effective, or useful something is: “Lila swears by those Vitamin C tablets as a way to stay healthy when everyone else is sick.” Finally, the phrase “to swear (someone) in” means to have someone repeat an oath (promise) before accepting a public job: “Who swears in the President of the United States?”

Culture Note
Types of Divorce

There are many types of “divorce” (the official end to a marriage). For example, divorces may be “contested” or “uncontested.” A “contested” divorce is a divorce that involves arguing and disagreement, with issues that the two “parties” (the people involved in a legal case, or the husband and wife in a divorce) cannot reach agreement on. They might disagree on how “assets” (things that are worth money) should be divided, “spousal support” (payments made by one person to the spouse after a divorce), or “child custody” (rules about how often each person will be with the children).

In contrast, in an “uncontested” divorce, the parties agree to “proceed” (continue and move forward) with the divorce in a “collaborative” (working together) way. Divorces may begin as uncontested and then become contested, or “vice versa” (the other way around).

In a “fault-based” divorce, the court has to determine who is “at fault” (who is responsible for a problem; who can be blamed) for the divorce. For example, the court might consider how one spouse’s “cheating” (having a sexual relationship with someone outside of marriage) or “abuse” (damaging or hurtful treatment of another person) “justifies” (makes reasonable) the divorce. In contrast, in a “no-fault” divorce, the court does not have to determine who is at fault for the end of the marriage.

“Navigating” (figuring out the process of) a divorce can be time-consuming, but in some states, there is a simpler option: a “summary dissolution” or a “simplified divorce.” These are options for “short-lived” (lasting for only a short period of time) marriages with “minimal” (few) assets and no children. These types of divorces can be processed much more quickly than more traditional divorces.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - b