I am convinced that my life divides itself in periods of two weeks. You see, my only responsibility with regards to writing, is that every two weeks I have to deliver something new. For the last few months, I decided that I was going to stop planning themes and that every two weeks I was just going to let life happen to me. Needless to say, life delivered to me.
I come from a country where, unfortunately, at any sign of a spark, water gets thrown your way. Standing out, was almost something to be ashamed of. That’s why so many people leave in order to find a place where their spark is going to be allowed to shine. Except, when I came into the new country, I was encouraged, but it was never enough.
I remember when I was learning English in first grade, the excitement I felt when I got a 100 on my dictation exams. The teacher would read random words out loud and I would have to write them on paper correctly. Then in second grade, I started reading stories and learning grammar rules. I couldn’t just spell the words, I could write sentences! Then infamous fourth grade, my first English speaking oratory. I did a whole three minute oratory on the importance of clean water in our society. Yes, even as a young person I used every opportunity I had to rant about social issues and how much they piss me off (another side of my personality you’ll get to know over time). Seventh grade, I was speaking English full-time. I was writing essays, doing math in English, yes math. Not only could I do all of these things, but there was almost no trace of an accent. I could pass as an American!
All of these small accomplishments made me very proud, you know, I was capable of anything and everything. Until in ninth grade, I tried to be part of harder classes. My teachers returned to me with: well since English is not your first language, we think that it is not wise for you to take the most rigorous courses.
So I worked hard.
Freshman year of high school, I was awarded with the English award.
“That will show them!” I thought to myself.
Apparently, my tenth grade teacher disagreed. I wasn’t allowed to take the highest English course because my teacher was insecure that I wouldn’t be able to handle it. She said it in the cruelest nicest way possible, she just wanted to be realistic as to where I stood. She told me this to my face. I can still hear the tone of doubt in her voice when she asked me if I truly wanted a higher level. The face she made when she heard about my ambitions. Lastly, the way she fought against me to keep me stuck in a lower class, and nobody did anything about it. No matter how much I protested that I could do it, I faced rejection everywhere I went.
They couldn’t possibly do this! They had seen my work, work that I put my everything into, and it wasn’t considered “honor’s work.”
Needless to say, I was pissed off. I went home, shut myself inside my room, and drowned myself in some good ole’ adolescent self pity. What made me angry was the doubt in her voice, and the fact that her own insecurity held me back. Why did I have to suffer from her inability to see my potential?
That feeling has never left my side. From that moment, I decided that that was the first and last time anybody else’s insight ever got in my way.
Over the past two weeks I noticed that a popular mental state nowadays is that the more under pressure people are, the more efficiently they work. I used to be proud to say that I was almost impermeable to that pressure. Whether it was social, academic, or personal, I truly thought that I was the type of person that could handle it. Until these past two weeks, were it broke me a little (or a lot!).
Whenever I don’t know what to write about, whenever I have nothing to say and I ask for advice I get told to “write about being seventeen, write about what it feels like to be you.”
This is what I feel.
To me, the more pressure means the higher standards to fulfill. Standards, that were set by someone else doesn’t have the first clue about what it’s like to be seventeen, or they chose to forget what it’s like be seventeen. Because often they can’t make up their minds on which way to treat you, in one way you are almost an adult and they fully expect you to act like one. On the other hand, you get dismissed when you feel things. You’re just a kid who has no clue what they are talking about.
I told someone about my college ambitions, they scoffed in my face, because apparently I need more “realistic” goals. I told someone else about the way I view things and the way I feel, I got laughed at. Lastly, I was made feel small because despite my efforts, I will never fulfill the perfect academic standard.
Just like before, I shut myself to cry my room in my adolescent self-pity, because I couldn’t fulfill any standard. I worked so hard this whole year in every aspect and it still wasn’t good enough.
It’s a heart sinking feeling when you devote so much of your time to something, and you still fall short.
I may not be able to deliver something groundbreaking every single time I write to you. I may not have the greatest most positive story to recount to you every two weeks, because there are times where everything feels blurry. But here’s my purpose for telling you this.
Every time that I feel the pressure of things weighing down on me, suffocating me, I remind myself of my small accomplishments. I take a deep breath and I remember the things that I have accomplished, things that I’m doing right.
I remember my excitement I felt when I started realizing that I too could write the same extensive academic essays as my American peers. That I am capable of excelling in fields that so many people have very cynically dismissed me in, all with the poor excuse that it is “for my own good.” After a loss, I remind myself of the hard work I put into it, despite the fact that I lost, I tried. I am doing good. I don’t have to prove myself to anyone in order to know my worth and capabilities, and you don’t either.
Because it never ends, you don’t ever stop trying, you keep throwing darts at the board in hopes that someday you’ll hit the bullseye. Despite the corrosive comments of dreamless people who are blind to your spark, who are jealous of your shine, who hate the way you can stand out. Yes, there are people who are much better than you in the things you love, but none of them do it the way you do.
Featured Image: Photography by Elizabeth Carrigan.
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