Remembering Maria Tanner
by Harley Hahn
Maria Tanner was an exceptional student (and an exceptional worker) for two reasons, both of which evolved over time.
First, as a young adult, she began to cultivate the skills of focusing deeply during her classes and lectures while taking detailed notes. After class, she would organize her notes, enhancing them with drawings, diagrams, charts, and summaries. She would then spend countless hours studying on her own.
Second, as she matured, Maria learned how to quietly, but efficiently, examine her life and decide what she needed and what she wanted. She would formulate ambitious, but realistic, long‑term goals — the key being "long‑term" — and take the time to analyze what requirements she would need to meet those goals. Finally, she would devise a plan which she would carry out, slowly and patiently, one step at a time, all by herself.
Do you see the pattern? Maria developed (1) good study habits, which she would use all by herself, and (2) realistic long‑term plans, which she would carry out all by herself.
Some of this was Maria's personality, but most of this approach to life came from her Scandinavian/Finnish heritage.
Maria's father's family was from Finland; her mother's from Sweden, which means that her ancestors had evolved to survive long, dark, brutal winters by planning, working hard, and enduring hardship without complaining — all with a strong sense of humble, dispassionate independence.
When Maria first came to America, she was young and she tended to make her educational decisions based on what she enjoyed doing and what she was interested in at the time. Later, when she faced the need to earn money for herself in an unfamiliar foreign country, her cultural background began to take over: Maria adapted her thinking to become more and more practical — and as her interests evolved so did her goals.
Acquiring knowledge and teaching herself difficult skills soon became a life‑long passion for Maria, and the intense motivation to focus successfully on her goals would follow her into adulthood.
Years later, even after her formal academic education ended and Maria had begun to settle into her career, she would continue to learn and to teach herself new skills: she never stopped taking classes and reading books, journals and magazines.
In June of 1978, having just turned 19, Maria returned home from her long visit to Oklahoma. She completed her basic Swedish education and then, of her own accord, boldly left Sweden once again, this time to study and work: first in Germany, and then in the French part of Switzerland.
In the fall of 1980, at the age of 21, Maria went back to the United States, where she enrolled at Mills College, a small, female-only school in Oakland. (One of the Barton daughters — from the family she stayed with in Oklahoma — was a student at Mills.) Maria spent the 1980-1981 academic year at Mills, where she concentrated on French and German. Although she did not realize it at the time, this was the beginning of a big change for Maria: from this point on, she would live the rest of her life in the U.S., returning to her home country only for short visits.
After a year at Mills, Maria transferred to the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) where she enrolled as a Bachelor of Arts student in the fall of 1981, intending to major in German and French. She spent the next two years, through the spring of 1983, at UCSB, studying mostly German (language, literature, and culture) as well as French, with a dabbling of history, music, and anthropology. Then, at the age of 24, Maria interrupted her studies at UCSB to begin to work.
At first she stayed in Santa Barbara, living for an extended time on a boat in the harbor. From there, she moved to San Diego and, a few years later, to Virginia.
Starting in 1988, at the age of 29, Maria spent 13 years in a variety of health-related occupations: massage therapist, fitness/aerobics instructor, teacher, and personal trainer, as well as working with sports-related injuries.
In 1989, she became an ACE-certified (American Council on Exercise) Fitness Trainer. She then worked as a personal trainer and fitness instructor at a posh spa (Golden Door), on a cruise ship (for 6 months), and in her own practice. In 1991, she graduated from Mueller College in San Diego as a Licensed Massage Therapist.
In September of 1993, at the age of 34, Maria moved back to Santa Barbara for one last year at UCSB to complete her university education. This time, however, her choice of subjects was influenced by a change in her long-term goals.
During her first three years of university study (one year at Mills College; two at UCSB) Maria's course of study was oriented towards the study of German-related subjects, French, and a few other liberal arts topics. This had now changed.
As a child, Maria had always been physically active: skiing, ballet, as well as a great deal of time walking outdoors all year round. At Mills College, she added tennis to her list of activities; at UCSB, volleyball. However, it was only during her break from the university that Maria's vocational interests began to change to encompass physical activity: first fitness; then health and nutrition; and finally, in her later years, a progression towards beauty and cosmetic procedures.
At the age of 34, when she returned to UCSB after a gap of 10 years to complete her last three quarters of study, Maria's choice of subject matter changed radically. To be sure, in each of her last three quarters, she did take one advanced German course (to complete the requirements of her major), as well as one humanities course.
But now, for the first time in her academic life, Maria filled her schedule with classes related to fitness, health, and nutrition:
Fall Quarter 1993
Winter Quarter 1994
Spring Quarter 1994
On June 10, 1994, at the age of 35, Maria Tanner graduated from UCSB with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Germanic Languages and Literatures.
At the time, she seemed to be well on her way to becoming a practicing kinesiologist. (Kinesiology being the scientific study of physical activity and human movement.)
Then, in 1995, her life took a dramatic turn.
this world is a strange one, hungry to be studied, to be magnified by the right drawing. it is her curiosity, capturing beauty in notes scrawled so tidy and neat.
© All contents Copyright 2023, Harley Hahn