In the first few weeks of being in Spain, many things have come to light for me regarding personal strength and abilities. This article is not to advertise the immense struggles, in which I have experienced, but to advertise yet again the importance of noticing, feeling, and constructing the most applicable plan to preserve, you.
I think I am going to work backwards in time here, bare with me…
Yesterday, we began a new term of classes for the “continuation period” of our semester here abroad (keep in mind, all classes are taught only in Spanish). First class was interesting, I’m learning about skills, and words a health professional would use in their field of work. I’m interested in the human body and healthy living, so this class was very refreshing. I hope to volunteer in a Spanish speaking country in the future, and will possibly need to utilize some forms of medical language for which ever reason. I enjoy learning about a subject I find interesting that is taught in Spanish because it makes me want to zone out less, and concentrate more. On not only the content, but also the words she is using and the manner she is using them. So that was very, very refreshing.
Next class of the day is named “The Psychology of Learning a Second Language”. The professor was a darling, kind man, who explained to us that he is not a Spanish professor, he is a psychology professor. Another refreshing thing to hear due to my love of psychology. After a bit of class introduction (again solely in Spanish) he pulled up a TED talk, titled “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” explained seamlessly by Ken Robinson. The lecture was in English (oh glory day), but the message of this lecture was actually my saving grace.
My entire philosophy on learning and reviving our poorly educated communities is centered around accessing the skills we all obtain and putting them to use, rather than shove a million completely different learners and humans into the same geometry class. If you have read some of my past articles you will have gotten the sense of this ideology. Robinson goes on to tell a story about Gillian Lynne, the woman who choreographed the play “Cats” along with many other world famous shows like “Phantom of the Opera”. When she was a child, her teachers had told her parents to take her to a doctor because she clearly has a learning disorder due to her incapability to sit still and focus in class (ADHD). Her parents then brought her to a doctor, and they left Gillian in a room by herself with the radio on and she immediately began to move to the music. The specialist then said to Gillian’s mother, “Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn’t sick. She’s a dancer, take her to dance school”. Then of course the little girl who was hopeless in her previous classes became one of the most famous choreographers the world had ever seen. At this point in this mountain moving lecture, I honestly had tears running down my cheeks. It is so beautiful to me when people are supported in finding the thing they were meant to do, regardless of if their true passion and strength is in engineering or writing poetry. All these different things all have one commonality, absence of heartbreak everyday in doing something you were not meant to.
I could honestly not believe what I had been lead to, after the most gruesome assault on my ego for the past three weeks, that my school, the place I never wanted to return to again, obtained what I was looking for all along, understanding. “He gets it!! He gets me!!” I thought, practically shouting in my head about the excitement I was experiencing.
The past three weeks, were tough on me. I had overestimated my strength about a thousand times over, before coming here. I had obtained all my positive thoughts and advances in strength on my climb back up, from the darkest hole of my life thus far. I was pretty sure that I couldn’t be stronger, and that my life couldn’t get any better over the summer. I was a bit apprehensive at the airport leaving Boston, because I had a funny feeling all the sunshine and butterflies in my life may not stay much longer. I was right about this. Once arriving in Spain, I was absolutely bombarded. I learned very quickly that I probably shouldn’t have used my previous Spanish classes as “nap time” because, holy fuck, I felt I knew nothing. But, in reality, it was just my ego convincing my very weak mind that I couldn’t do this. The next couple days at school everything got progressively worse, even into the second and third weeks. I cried everyday after not shedding a tear for months of blissful months on end. I kicked and screamed and denied myself of any positivity and oh, how my ego loved every second. I was giving up a little more every day with failing during class, not understanding a word of an hour lecture, not being creative, not being me. During this time, I was unconscious of knowing that the negativity I was experiencing was entirely my fault. There were many times throughout the day I read a phrase or noticed something beautiful that was trying to steer me in the right direction. To this, my ego chose to usually ignore or look the other way. I knew that I needed to fight this, I knew I needed to save myself again. I reached small realizations that I clung to in times of uncertainty, the first was that: unfortunately, I am not as strong as I thought I was. I realized that all my strength both mentally and physically, had been acquired through physical obstacles. Pushing myself physically to break through the biggest challenges I had been faced in the past were my only interpretations of overcoming something substantial.
Let me tell you, having your ego assaulted daily through consistent misuse of language, continuous corrections, everlasting confusion and silent helplessness, was absolutely harder than learning how to walk correctly again. I realized that I either need to get really comfortable with being wrong, or really comfortable with giving up. Giving up was not an option in which all my physical obstacles that I had surmounted in the past had taught me. So for this, I was thankful, and glimpsed at the light again for a short moment once again. Next, I realized that I will need this mental strength training for whatever will approach me next time I descend from the top of my blissful mountaintop. This gave me motivation to try harder, to seek the positives. I knew that they were around me, I was just blinded from seeing them while always looking at the ground feeling bad for myself.
America seems to have been the main problem in many of my struggles. Unfortunately, the people who previously told me that Europeans have a collective dislike toward Americans were not wrong. Not only was I failing at school everyday after getting a 4.0 the semester before, but when I would go grab coffee before class or buy some oranges from the grocery store; you would have thought I was kidnapping children at the looks I was receiving. Everyone hated me? For no reason other than the place I come from? What a shock!!! This taught me to have more empathy for minorities in our country, we literally don’t know what it is like to be rudely huffed at, while simply walking on a street. So, next time you see a person of Muslim faith at the grocery store, or a Korean trying to get a coffee, smile at them for me. Kindness heals people, I know it helped me greatly. I found an organic market I love, it’s down the street from my house and I still return everyday. The woman who owns the place, who speaks no english, doesn’t yell at me if I’m trying to formulate a sentence or ask for some more honey for my tea. She acknowledges I am trying, and appreciates that I don’t yell a language she doesn’t speak at her, like many American’s do. She has helped revive me more than she may know, and one day I will know how to thank her affectively in Spanish.
I realized that the only thing really lacking in my life here, was my positive mindset that had opened so many doors for me in the past. I began considering small, tiny bits of my day as huge advances even though they were actually pretty insignificant and small. I noticed how pretty the willow tree’s branches flowed in the wind by the river during my evening runs, huge win. I started trying more in class and caring less about being wrong, HUGE win. I got up everyday and made my bed (HUGE) and wrote in my journal when things inspired me throughout the day (SUPER HUGE). I tried to write an article the other day and it just wasn’t working for me, I didn’t get frustrated this time, I just left that stew on the stove to simmer a littlelonger. After my class ended on Monday I knew it was time to take that positive mindset soup off the burner because it was now time to enjoy. I had it all again, I had all the flavor and heat I needed to write, and ultimately release myself from this darkness. By God, how good it feels to race my fingertips over this key board again.
I pray that to who ever reads this can understand, that you do not have to be a Hercules of a human to get through times that are tough. The only thing you need is faith that it will get better and that although you are lost and confused, it is in your best interest to continue trying. Get up each day and make a small goal for yourself to accomplish. All the struggles I went through in the past have properly prepared me to face this current one head on, and for those past obstacles I am thankful. If it hadn’t been for my faith in improvement through gritty effort, I would probably be back in America by now. Please don’t give up. To conclude this rant, a lyric from one of my favorite songs ever, Shake It Out by Florence and the Machine “it is always darkest before the dawn”. Keep going. 😉
LOVE Y’ALL THANKS FOR READING. ❤
XX, Taryn Mac