When I was three years old, my father decided to teach me how to ride a bike. To do this, he would hold me up on the seat and run along with me as I pedaled. If I ever fell, he would be right there, ready to catch me. This technique worked for a while, but I would always learn how to ride a bicycle during the summer and forget the next year. My dad didn't know what was going wrong. He'd go out to the sidewalk every day, but, despite his dedicated attempts, nothing seemed to work. Although he remained patient for a while, when I turned five, in an act of desperation, my father decided to try something new. My dad held me up and ran along with me like he usually did, but when I began pedaling on my own, he let me go. I drove my bike independently for a while, but when I noticed my dad wasn't there, I fell and scraped my knee. To be honest, it hurt like a b***h, but one thing is true: I never forgot how to ride a bike again. It was only through failing and having real consequence that I was truly able to learn how to ride a bike. It's a powerful lesson if anything, and something hard to understand for a five-year-old girl, but somehow this idea stuck with me, and I was reminded of it a couple of days ago.
This past week interim reports were due and let’s just say that not everyone was pleased with their grades. When I first saw what I had gotten for my IA classes, I was pretty outraged. I didn't feel like such a low score was portraying my effort, so my first instinct was to discuss it with Mr. Cotter. We had a pretty intense conversation, and at first, I was set on the idea that I deserved better. Still, after speaking for about an hour, I began to realize that while I did many positive things throughout this bimester, I also made a couple of mistakes that cost me a better grade. The conversation took place on Tuesday, and grades were due Friday, so I had some time to process the information. And as the days went by, I thought about it more, and the arguments that Mr. Cotter proposed began to have more sense in my mind.
On Friday, I talked to Mr. Cotter again, and he raised my grade for a few classes, but others remained the same. Nevertheless, I was happy with the score I received in the end because I knew what I had to do to improve it. Now you may be wondering how this connects to the first story I told, but in my perspective, they both deal with failure. Although in Innovation Academy we try to cultivate a mindset that grades are irrelevant, they do matter in the real world. The first things that colleges see when you submit your application is your high school GPA, and that is a frightening fact that students must acknowledge. It's hard to admit our mistakes, and easy to shy away from failure, especially when accepting your wrongdoings can lead to a conflict of interest. While we seek to improve, we also fear the fall, so we try our best to avoid it. This might lead to us thinking the problem is solved, but in reality, we are only neglecting any lesson that may come our way. By receiving an undeserved, better grade, we are riding our bicycles with our parents besides us; avoiding the fall, but not learning anything whatsoever. Bad or average grades are like tumbling down from your bike and hurting yourself. While the grades may hurt in the moment, you are sure as hell going to learn.
I do think that I succeeded in many ways throughout this year, but it will forever be imprinted that I got a 5 in English class. I know that this is not a failing grade, but I set myself up for high standards, and I honestly wish that by the end of the semester, this number can improve. In fact, I have already begun to implement some strategies that might help raise this number. I am writing my blogs a week in advance in order to receive more feedback, and my ‘english-speaking game’ may help us cultivate an english-speaking environment inside the class. For me, this grade was my scratch in the knee, it served as a reminder that I have to get better and learn how to get up and keep on going. And although it may be hurting right now, I know that this mistake will serve well in the future.
While wounds and scratches will leave us scars, those marks act as reminders of the many things that we have learned. Pain may hurt you now, but every error is a token for our growth. If we avoided the fall, how would we ever be expected to learn? Our failures and screw-ups make us who we are and teach us powerful lessons that we will never leave behind.
Last week I had the opportunity to visit Puno for my economics documentary. During my time there, I learned a lot about the lives of rural families, and how to portray their stories through film. I had the chance to experience Puno and its beautiful landscapes, but I'd have to say that my greatest learning happened in the most unexpected way.
It was Thursday afternoon, I had been up for 17 hours, and my head hurt from mountain sickness. Ari and I were out filming time lapses when I had a realization. Although the weather was cold and we were hungry as hell, I wouldn't rather be anywhere else.
I've had interesting projects before and worked my butt off for some, but I have never encountered a project that captivated me as much as this one did. I've invested many days and nights, and the project isn't even close to being completed. My deep involvement in this project only made think back to the time I was a sophomore. I remember last year there was one thing that Mr. Bonnici always said: your project is your baby. It's an odd expression if anything, and something I had trouble understanding. How could one become so immersed in a project, to the point that you can call it a part of yourself? It's something hard to wrap your head around, and when we were introduced to the economics documentaries, the idea seemed even more far-fetched.
Truthfully, it took me a while to get into the whole economics deal. I'm personally more of a science person, which is why I always found econ to be somewhat boring. I would have never imagined myself becoming enthralled by this topic, and much less when my research is centered around the price of quinoa (a relatively unattractive topic). In, the past would have yawned at the idea of building a documentary on this basis, but now I find myself eager to accomplish this task.
Even though my documentary has still room for improvement, I am confident that it'll reach it's highest potential. Because during the time I have spent studying this topic, I have delved deeply into the reasons why the quinoa prices changed; I've talked to experts and even travelled to Puno. I've gone through extreme measures to ensure that my project looks adept and professional, which is why I can now say with certainty: this documentary has truly become my baby, and I'll do anything to watch it succeed.
On winter break of 2012, I traveled to Europe with my family. We went on a 14-day trip to Germany, Italy, and the UK. Since my parents are known to be regular planning-freaks, every moment of our stay was carefully organized. Whether we were going on bike tours or visiting castles, the days were packed with various activities to ensure we never wasted a second, and up to the eleventh day, everything was going well. We had gone to the Coliseum and visited Amsterdam, the only thing remaining in the itinerary was our long-awaited trip to Wales. We had paid a tour guide to take us through the country's most beautiful sights, and things appeared to be going as planned. It wasn't until midday when suddenly the tour guide took the wrong turn, and we ended up stranded in the middle of nowhere.
At first, my parents were outraged; someone had ruined their carefully sought out plan. But as the tour guide got down from the car to ask for directions, he was amazed by what he saw. Across a tiny brick path and up a few rock steps, rested a giant lake, surrounded by hills and pine trees. The guide quickly called us to see the beautiful sight. The sun was setting, and the pink clouds painted the clear water a purple tone, it was breathtaking. After that day, our trip returned to normal; we continued with our activities until we went back to Lima. Although in summation, we encountered many beautiful scenes, stumbling upon the hidden lake in Wales was the most memorable part of our trip.
Now, there is a moral to this story, and it's about life and the errors one commits. On my trip to Europe, the path we took didn't end up being a wrong turn because something came out of it, and much like our small detour, life happens the same way. If you look back at your experiences and find yourself with regrets, think about all the positive repercussions that event had. Every step you take in life is essential. All of the detours and wrong turns will get you exactly where you need to be.
I was reminded of this lesson about two months ago when I was planning my summer internship. I had drawn out a schedule for the month of February, where I was supposed to fulfill my internship from the first to the twenty-ninth. I was set to go when suddenly, my mentor called to cancel. I was shocked and pretty worried, my perfect plan had been ruined (sounds familiar?). Since I knew I had no time to waste, I began calling contacts and asking my parents for their advice. In the end, I found out that my father's close friend was married to the manager of Peru's forensic laboratory, so I decided to give him a call. He offered me an internship at his lab during the last weeks of February, and since I was desperate I took it. Not long after accepting the opportunity, I realized I had the first weeks of the month free; So I took the time to plan a trip to visit colleges, and it was an incredible experience to have. In the end, I was able to visit universities, have ACT classes and work my butt off in an internship that allowed me to grow as a person. Although things didn't go as planned, and February ended up being a pretty intense month, I can conclude that I wouldn't have had it any other way.
If there is one thing I know for certain, it's that life is utterly unpredictable. Events transpire quickly, and for the most part, things don't go as planned. If you look at your experiences in retrospective, it's easy to spot out the things you would have done differently, but try and think of what you'd never change. The things we do and what happens to us shape us into the persons we are supposed to become. If my internship mentor wouldn't have cancelled, then I would have never interned at the forensic lab and gone to the university visits that changed the list of colleges to which I will apply. Forgive me for the cliché, but in life, everything happens for a reason. Actions lead you, mistakes prepare you, and wrong turns can take you places you never thought you'd go.
Plumber's Syndrome: a term coined by author William Deresiewicz. Otherwise known as Ivy retardation, or like The New York Times once put it: "when you can converse with people from other countries, in other languages, but can’t communicate with the plumber standing in your own house." It affects the many who attended elite universities in the States, but in the case of Peru, just the lucky few. Every year, Lima high schoolers are struck by this disease, one of the most recent victims being me.
As luck would have it, my phone got stolen over the weekend. Forgive my passive voice, but if I knew who took it, I wouldn't be writing this today. The tragedy took place on Saturday and thankfully my mom found a friend who could lend me her iPhone for a few weeks. On Sunday I had to go pick it up, and since both my parents and my brother are away, I had no one to take me. I usually don't take cabs. Whether it's my family or my driver, there is always somebody who can get me to where I need to be. Even if I ever do, I am always consumed by technology; completely oblivious to the presence of my surroundings, so this time it was a little different.
Although it wasn't common for me, under the circumstances, I was forced to go on a taxi. The driver arrived at my house and gave me a call. He drove a red Toyota that must have been twice my age. I left my house and uneasily got into the cab only to become even more troubled after listening to the loud engine noises the car made at every turn. The man was in his mid-thirties, he wore a collared shirt and listened to Los Hermanos Yaipen. While usually I'd be immersed into the world of social media, with no phone, this was no longer a possibility. As the awful music and the unsettling motor sounds attempted to mask the awkward silence, I realized that we had nothing in common with this man.
It was a long drive. Probably about thirty to forty minutes in the car and I had no source of entertainment. I tried to ask him a question but found myself failingly searching for words to say. I am a twelveth-grade student at one of Peru's best schools, and somehow, I could not speak to my taxi driver. I had never felt so disconnected in my life. I usually find ease in delving into a conversation, but for some reason, it seemed impossible to relate to this person.
We must have spent about twenty minutes in the car before I asked him if he preferred cash or credit. It was a stupid question if anything, but it was a good start. After hearing his vague answer, I asked him his name and if he liked being a taxi driver and soon the conversation began. It wasn't easy getting over myself but after a while, I saw that this person -who now I know is named Luis- was actually kind of interesting. He was an aspiring entrepreneur who was planning to start his own taxi business with his brother.
Roosevelt is a great school. It offers students many opportunities to shape their learning. Although I love my high school, it does a perfect job at trapping students in a bubble of eliteness. While I talked to Luis, I realized that we had more in common that I led myself to believe. He also had dreams and aspirations and a refreshing perspective on things. All of this made me think back to Corey's proposition for the Innovation Academy. Besides changing the way Roosevelt teaches, how about changing who they teach all together? By mixing people from different social statuses, students would be able to learn from people who might have different points of view. This merging of socio-economic classes would broaden students perspectives and do a hell of a better job at, as the Deresiewicz put it, shaping world citizens.
“The earth has music for those who listen.”