martes, 24 de enero de 2017

You win some, you lose some

For the very first time in my life, I failed a subject. I felt I was a failure, until I realised that the failure was the subject, not me. Our educational system is quite unfair. After 3 months of hard work, if you have a bad day on the exam day, bad luck, because your mark in the exam will be 100% of your final mark.

Last December, after weeks of studying really hard in order to get extraordinarily high marks, I had my last exam on a Monday. It was one of those "easy" subjects, just 2 hours a week, but during the weekend, I couldn't concentrate. I was done with studying. During the exam, my brain was on holidays, and I failed. My report card was undoubtedly interesting: great marks in every single subject, especially languages, and a fail in that one "easy" subject.

I could talk about how unfair I believe our system is, about all the things that upset me, but I'm tired of complaining. I'm tired of complaining because my voice will be lost among the other millions of Spaniards that claim to know how to fix everything.

Instead, I will talk about failure.

I failed a subject in my last year of high school, after a lifetime of good marks. The day I was told I had failed the exam, I was also told I had gotten the second prize in a short story competition. You win some, you lose some, right? But I saw it as an even bigger failure. Two years ago I had won the first prize in that same competition. Why had I gotten a worse prize? Was I a worse writer now at 17 than when I was 15? Was I getting worse, was becoming a writer a hopeless dream? I went to bed with a feeling of failure, of double failure. And it felt really bad.

Now, a few weeks later, I see it from a different perspective. I hadn't lost that first prize from two years ago, I had just won one more recognition, this time a second prize. I was told about the great increase in participation in the contest this year. I was congratulated much more than two years ago, for whatever reason. And, going back to my other failure, the failed exam, I realized that, although I failed that one exam, by now I must have passed hundreds of exams. Since I started school, I've written hundreds of exams and I can count how many I've failed with only one hand.

The first one was in Grade 2, I remember it. It was a Math exam, all about divisions, and I was really slow in Math at that time. My teacher talked with my parents, trying to convince them that I was too slow, too easily distracted and too shy. I wish I could talk to that teacher today and tell her that my only problem was that I had a creative mind, too much imagination for her Math problems. Later in life, I started getting great marks in Math, and I never failed a Math exam ever again.

My second "failure" was in Grade 7 with the most close minded teacher I've ever had. It was a Geography exam. My third failure was a Grade 8 Science exam I hadn't studied for because I had had a track and field competition in the other side of the country. One of the best weekends of my life.

4 failed exams out of literally hundreds of passed exams, most of them with good marks, and I still remember better my failures than my successes. And I think that's a problem. Society tells us that we have to be beautiful, fit, smart, sociable... We have to be perfect! But nobody is perfect! If you are an outstanding student, society will tell you to join a sport team in order to be fit, even though you hate sports. If you like arts, you should get a "real degree" such as medicine or law and once you've graduated with good marks, then you are allowed to express what you've always wanted to do.

I knew that J. K. Rowling's books had been rejected by a lot of publishers before somebody thought it was a good story, but I almost gave up on writing after not getting any of the numerous prizes in a short story competition in Grade 8. Since then, I have already won 5 short story competitions and most of my Spanish and Galician teachers have recognized my writing abilities. Yet I'm still aware of the fact that any relatively big failure today could make me feel like I was in Grade 8 again. Misunderstood. Unwanted.

And this brings to my mind one big question: Why? Why can't we see failure as the part of success it is? Movies wrongly taught us that if you don't success at something overnight, you're not good at it and you should quit. But movies are two hors long, while our lives last for many years.

Our lives last for so many years, there aren't any due dates. It's okay to be 17 and still not have a clear idea of what to study (yeah, that's me). It's okay to fail a subject and get the credit whenever you have the chance to try again. It's okay to quit your job and get a new one because you were not fully satisfied. It's okay to keep pursuing your dreams when you're not young anymore.

And stop thinking so much about being criticized because if people want to criticize you, they'll find the way. You'll always be too short, too tall, too smart, too dumb, too serious, too funny, too liberal, too conservative... Follow your dreams, you'll be fine, because those who care don't matter, and those who matter don't care.

jueves, 6 de octubre de 2016

The unwanted luck of changes

We all fear changes. It's a reality. It's a fact. And it's okay.

We are comfortable in our simple lives, without too much excitement, zero surprises, and absolutely no disappointments.

And changes may be a bit uncomfortable when they happen, but you either learn or win.

I´m not even going to mention Canada. I don't need to. It was where I learned that changes are always good, but I even tried to make more changes here.

I've been in the same school for 13 years. I started in kindergarten as a 3-year-old, and I stayed there until I was 16. My intention was to go back to that same school after coming back from Canada, to finish high school there. It was one of those small schools where everyone just expected you to graduate there, and you assumed there was no other way, so you never thought you wouldn't. But, before coming back, I realized that my best friends were all in the same school, not my school, but other one nearby. The few friends that I had in my old school had moved to that same school because they needed a change. And then I realized that I had been uncomfortable in that school for the last years because most of my friends were in that other school. What was I doing?, you may be wondering. Why hadn't I changed school before? And that brings me to the whole point of this text, or essay, or whatever this is. Fear. I thought everything would be harder in other schools. They made me believe so. It doesn't matter who, because our society makes us believe that we shouldn't move too much, complain too much, change too much... They tell us that we have it easy, so why fighting for something that may be worse than what we already have? But we need to fight, it's in our blood, we started fighting for food and shelter, and then we built cities, and countries, and culture... We shall never stop fighting, building, wondering. If we fall in the trap of conformity, we will never improve, learn or grow. No cause is lost if there is but one fool left to fight for it.

So, as you've probably assumed, I changed school. Now I'm in a much bigger high school with more subjects to choose, more friends to hang out with... and it's just so great. The two most important decisions of my life were probably going to Canada and changing school, and I know that I'll never regret them. It's not because Spain and my old school are worse than Canada and my new school. Not at all. It's just that I'd had enough of them, and I needed a change.

martes, 27 de septiembre de 2016

An explanation

You may be wondering why I'm doing this. I mean, THIS. A blog in English, a foreign language for me, talking about... whatever I'm talking about. Well, it's not a long story, nothing exciting, but I'll tell you anyway. Just to satisfy your curiosity.

One year ago I took a plane to study for a year in Canada. No family, no friends, just me and my suitcase. I've always liked writing, so somebody suggested me to write a blog. Following her advice, I started a blog in Spanish talking about what being a Spanadian (Spanish + Canadian) feels like. It was a success, as everybody that I used to know where stuck on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, and reading my life was easier that way. Then somebody said that I wasn't that bad at writing in English, and that I should start a blog in English too. But it wasn't the right moment. Not yet.

After the huge success of my other blog (not to show off, but it got 10,000 views, probably half of them from my parents), I couldn't write about Canada anymore. The experience itself was over, but the learning had just started. Maybe because I didn't want to lose my English, perhaps because it just felt the right way, or it might be just a huge mistake... anyway, I decided to write it in English. Canada and my experience there will probably be mentioned, but this is not about my experience as an international student anymore. After the last page of a good book, you close it and look for another good book, but at the same time you save a special spot in your mind for the finished great book.

Paper planes, what a childish topic, right?

Maybe it's not approached with the right attitude. Think of a paper plane as a letter with the magical ability to fly. It can fly with the wind, overcoming impossible obstacles, despite its fragility. It's a letter with a sender but not an addressee, sent from an anonymous writer to the unknown reader. And it can have anything written on it, even attached to it.

I once wrote a story about paper planes. They could fly over a blue sky to land under the same blue sky, as their senders were just separated by a few meters. Oh, and a wall. Yeah, the Berlin Wall was also in between them.

I wonder if this is a paper plane. I wonder if somebody, maybe on this or the other side of the ocean, will find this message and read it, keeping its secret for him or her. It certainly is a nice thought.

But if nobody ever finds this paper plane... Well, a plane is safe on the airport, but that's not what planes are for. And as this is made of paper (metaphorically, I'm not that crazy), there's very little chances it'll make it to an airport, but I'm willing to take that risk.

A good start

A good start.
What is that?
I guess some kind of perfection or utopic beginning that I will never write.
So let's forget all that overestimated fake beauty.
Forget all you think you know about me, stereotypes included, so that the truth can actually sink in.
Yes, it's much better now.

I like thinking that you'll imagine a world unknown to anybody but me when you read my words. I personally enjoy that picture: a man, woman or child building a castle up in their minds using nothing but what I provide them. It's probably harder than that, mainly because not even I can understand my own mind, so what a torture would be trying for everyone else! Not to mention the countless grammar/vocabulary/punctuation mistakes. But if you like, I can show you a story.

If you come with me, I will show you a story.

I'll tell you something.