Proust Questionnaire with Mr. Steven Spiegel

History teacher Steven Spiegel answers the questionnaire created by the famed French essayist and novelist Marcel Proust


Atharva Nilapwar

Steven Spiegel prepares for his next class to start

Atharva Nilapwar, Staff Writer

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I think that looks different, obviously, to everyone. For me, happiness is being able to go to bed at night feeling like I lived my best life during the day. So, feeling like I was my true self and was able to enjoy my day with whoever came across it. That experience may look like having fun with students or family or friends.

What is your greatest fear?

My literal greatest fear is rodents and rats. For some irrational reason, I am just absolutely petrified of rats. It traces back to watching Captain planet as a kid with these radioactive rats they had. Philosophically, one of my greatest fears is not being able to fully express my beliefs. I think that, in a lot of societies, people are a little bit too conservative and aren’t “real.”  They don’t really share what they’re feeling. That has always been something I try to be conscious of.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Being honest with people, and I don’t mean that I’m dishonest with people. I [just] sometimes feel uncomfortable sharing honest feedback for people that I think could be useful for them and be useful for me to express.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

In terms of being direct, I know that it’s difficult, so I think it’s an unfair expectation to have in people. [However], I wish people were more genuine and just said what they’re feeling. It’s tough sometimes, but I wish people were just a little bit more themselves.

Which living person do you most admire?

My mom. She has all the traits I mentioned that I like in others—more sincere, more themselves, more genuine, being direct when need be—she does that. However, she is not awkwardly blunt. My mom does it in such a warm, genuine, and engaging way that people understand her feedback comes from a place of caring about them.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Academic success is important, but success in the way of getting good grades? People put too much pressure on themselves to fit that traditional definition of numeric success—particularly here in Hopkinton. I think success, in reality, is learning new things [and] improving your personal knowledge.

What is your greatest extravagance?

I travel a lot. There’s a lot of value to traveling, but I think I could probably do it less extravagantly. Having a kid, I think it’s a little bit more of a challenge, but I think back to college. I traveled with my friends on a very cheap budget: not staying at super fancy hotels, not eating at super fancy restaurants. The enjoyment I got on those trips was comparable to the enjoyment I get by staying at nicer places. I think there’s something to be said about just living how the average person [in an area] does and getting the cultural experience that way.

On what occasion do you lie?

There are very few occasions I would lie. I think there are some situations where not telling somebody something would keep them from feeling extra pain and unhappiness if it’s not going to affect them. I would call that lying by admission.

Where would you most like to live?

If I didn’t live in New England—and I’m very happy where I’m living right now—I think Denver is a place that I really like and might have liked to live. I like the mountains and the culture. I also really like the Pacific Northwest—Seattle and Portland are two places I’ve really enjoyed spending time at. It would be great to have access to mountains, the outdoors, hiking, friendly people, good food—that kind of thing. If I could live somewhere for a month or two, it would be Mexico City. I heard that it’s very vibrant and I think that would be a really interesting city to explore.

What is your most treasured possession?

I have a paperweight that my grandfather handmade. It reflects his hard-working nature. It has a bunch of money he saved.—pristine pennies from the 1950s. He talked to us [kids] about being economically responsible—putting money away and being able to give it to his children. He passed away many years ago, but I keep it in my house to honor the sacrifices my family made to get me and my family to where we are today.

What is your favorite occupation?

I enjoy teaching and education, so I love what I do and respect what other teachers do. Teachers generally are putting a lot of work into shaping your generation. If I wasn’t a teacher, one thing I probably would be is a park ranger. I really care about the environment. I guess that’s an educational job as well.

Who are your favorite writers?

I like Ernest Hemingway a lot. I think his writing has a lot of realism and gives you more perspective on life.