Posts, writing

Drawbacks: Essential Teachers of Gratitude And Passion

Can you remember the last occurrence in your life that has changed your plans?

By that I don’t mean an unexpected trip nor a promotion. I’m talking about a sudden diversion from your target, an unforeseen inconvenience that messes up your whole script. It’s something you’ll have to deal with one way or the other, unless you’re willing to drown in bitterness and depression.

I’m not against grieving and suffering, no way! In fact, I welcome those feelings dearly and view them as necessary in many aspects, just as necessary as scabs on a wound. They’re an unpleasant phase, but rip them off and you’ll take longer to heal. It’s the same thing.

Now, let’s see ourselves as children here for a moment, shall we?

I like to see drawbacks as strict and annoying parents. They’ll give you a curfew, they’ll ground you and make you disagree with them in every possible way. But here’s the thing! As kids, we have no clue what’s best for us, all we want to do is what feels right at that moment. We curse at our moms and dads and slam doors as though they’re doing us harm. Truth is, their insights in every aspect of life may not be perfect, yet they’re still way ahead of ours. It’s the “no’s” that will build us into better, more humble adults, prevent us from trouble and hopefully render a “thank you” later.

As grown people, as much as we’d wish to, we unfortunately don’t know exactly what to choose to our greater benefit, either. We might want something and create a meticulous plan to reach it, only to watch it crumble due to an unwelcome event at the least favorable time. Or worse, we may not be putting any effort in finding what we want, crossing our arms and expecting a higher power to hand us everything for free. Nothing ever works that way.

There’s no bigger frustration than being convinced your own life is against you. It’s a common thought when you watch your expectations fade and have to come up with something new, even when you don’t have the slightest idea where to begin. But what if that’s a reprimand from the mother of all mothers – that’s right, life – advising you not to go that way if you don’t wish to disappoint yourself? What if all it wants is to see you thrive, even if its intentions are blurry at the moment? Think about that.

THE START

In order to illustrate this concept, I’ll write about an unfortunate incident that arose 3 years ago.

At the time, I was seized by this poisonous rancor that I never wish to deal with again. Unbeknown to me, what I thought was harmful would soon take me by surprise. Who would’ve thought I’d find gratitude and passion in the darkest places? I know I wouldn’t. If only I’d put my head down, I would have found the gems along the trail earlier than expected.

Moving on…

I was a fresh graduate, unsure about what to do next. By that time I thought I’d have everything mapped out like all the other kids, who seemed absolutely confident on their chosen major – and some even about career choices! It was terrifying. I knew I had to make my mind up quickly, or else I’d be thrown to the wolves.

Everybody’s first guess was that I would end up teaching English, like my mother. Much as I’d never considered teaching as a job, I’ve never thanked her enough for raising me on English – what got me started on writing in the first place. Ah, writing. To my chagrin, there are no majors that specialize on creative writing where I live, unless you pursue language studies, which would eventually spiral you back into teaching. Even so, I never thought I was a fit and decided to brush it off and keep searching.

After graduation I was still living with my parents, and in no time I was being bombarded with annoying questions about my future at the table during lunch, questions I was unable to answer. Even if I did answer them, I’d mention possible creative careers which, more often than not, would be disregarded and criticized. Why bother? I’d simply laugh it off, pretending to be unabashed by the discouraging remarks.

In reality, all I wanted to do was bury myself 10 feet within the ground and sort it all out without being judged for my indecisiveness. My self-esteem decreased whereas my doubts stacked up with each passing day.

Having siblings is all fun and games until the comparisons emerge. In my case, I grew up fed by the notion that I should strive to reach my brother and sister in their best attributes, as well as they should be like me in certain aspects. Had I know about my singularity sooner, I would’ve spared myself from unneeded suffering.

My brother, the brains of the trio since day one, was determined to enter Med School. As you may have guessed, that made him the family’s sweetheart. My sister was torn between a few courses, yet all of them were more practical ones, such as architecture and journalism. I felt like the third-wheel — intended pun.

If only I were smart enough, I could pursue a realistic major”, I’d tell myself. I wanted to get a job, browse careers I could be interested in, anything that would keep me moving forward and make me forget I was behind everyone else.

I couldn’t complain much, though. I was settled, living with my folks, it was just a matter of time until the right choice floated towards me and fixed everything. Boy, was I wrong. In translation, I was in a dangerous setting called the comfort zone. I wasn’t going to accomplish anything from there.

A few months later, a sudden shift left me shaken. It was the quake that would force me to change my perspective.

THE SHOCK

The three of you are moving out”, my father told us during an untraditional family reunion.

My brother was going to attend a Pre-Med school in a different state, coincidentally where our grandmother’s hometown is. Because my sister and I were so indecisive, why not drag us along with him? After all, never in our lives had we left our parent’s little corner and it was the perfect moment to smash our shells with little prior notice. We would, somehow, magically discover what we wanted to study for the rest of our lives, all while living and growing together. Brotherly love at its finest.

According to dad, that would demand an absurd amount of responsibility from us, which was just what we were lacking. “Since you’ll be living close to Grandma, your mother and I won’t have to worry too much about you living far from us”.

I refused to accept it at first. Sure, it was about time we moved out at some point (we were 17) but that was unexpected, not to mention I’d have my precious pride badly hurt from having to do something against my will. I didn’t make my own income, so whenever I defied the idea, the “my money, my rules” talk would spring up. It was a losing game at that point.

I recall giving my father silent treatment for days, something I was never good at. It dawned on me that I would leave lifelong friendships that heaven knows if I’d keep after that. I would have to start another life somewhere else, which I did not feel like doing, at all.

I could have dwelled in sorrow, but I did something right, at last: I chose to follow the flow of things and see where it would take me.

THE ARRIVAL

It was a nice little apartment we were living in. It was pretty small, but we didn’t need any more than that. We had everything we needed in order to live decently and comfortably. We were in luck to be settled somewhere near a bakery, a supermarket, the gym…we never had to walk much to get to the essential places. Plus, our grandmother would visit every other day and help us out with anything we weren’t used to yet, such as cooking.

Still, I was hollow. I spent most of my time sulking in my room while my siblings were out exploring and making the most out of the initial experience. During prep school, my sister made friends with everyone in the blink of an eye. Truth is, I could have done the same just as well, but I was blocking people. I was purposefully shutting myself out of communication with anyone. I couldn’t wait to get home at the end of the day.

I knew I had to fill myself up, somehow. Otherwise, I would repeat depressive cycles I sure as hell didn’t want to endure again. That meant descending into childish worries and groundless fears, which could only be swept away by…

Writing.

Writing! Why hadn’t I thought of that before? That has been my escape valve for years, why on earth have I stopped doing it? I used to have diaries from my childhood to my teen years, and I had so much fun letting my thoughts bask on paper. For some reason this practice faded through time, but at that moment I knew it was time to start again.

I had countless notebooks and pens idling around for school. I immediately grabbed them and didn’t think twice before writing away the pain.

I wrote consistently every single day. I didn’t mind skipping school for that, for I finally felt like I was doing something right. I wrote pretty much anyything: diaries, stories, poetry…I even decided to test the waters on screenwriting, which was something I’ve always wanted to try but was too scared to. I studied everyday, grew fascinated by it, and ended up dedicating a whole year to writing my first screenplay ever.

I was in paradise. School became a second priority for me, all I wanted to do was write.

THE BREAKUP (EYE-OPENER)

One night, I was dozing off when my brother burst into my room, balling his eyes out like I’d never seen before.

The girl my brother was seeing had cheated on him. He had never suffered a heartbreak before and had no clue how to deal with it. Neither did I, to be honest.

He told me he hadn’t been able to study, he was ditching classes and felt like nothing made sense to him anymore. “I feel empty”, he said as he sobbed. I was just as lost as he was, but I had to do something so he would at least stop crying.

Therefore, after the whole “she doesn’t deserve you” conversation, I started to hit him with facts.

Look around you”, I said to him. “We’re not home, but we have everything here. You’re studying to get into college, something you’ve always wanted to do. You have all the books, good teachers and great potential to achieve anything you want. You’re going to regret taking it for granted”.

After a while of contemplation, he hugged me for a good 5 minutes, thanked me and left.

Had I just…told him everything I needed to hear since the beginning?

I had somewhere to live. I was going to school, I had money for all my needs and my parents made sure we never lacked any comfort, even at a state’s distance. Besides, I got to visit my grandmother every weekend when I only usually visited her twice a year.

What else did I require? Nothing. Nothing at all.

THE AFTERMATH

I spent the remainder of that year falling in love with each and every day, each and every word I wrote.

I did make friends, yes, and we’re stil in touch.

In researching majors, I decided I would pursue a career in languages. Would I end up teaching? Maybe. Would I write a lot? Definitely! And that’s all that mattered to me.

As it turned out, I returned to my hometown, to my parents’ house – though I plan to leave soon, after all, I’m 20 for Christ sakes! I study Brazilian Portuguese and English in college, eventually playing hookie to write in the library. I might teach English for a living, but I won’t give up writing for anything in this world.

Not long after I came back, so did my brother and sister. My brother’s now a proud Med student and my sister studies Journalism, she even got herself a job! Needless to say, we’re all satisfied with our accomplishments. There’s even more to come!

I wouldn’t have imagined having to go through so much frustration to be able to see what the future had in store. The only thing I was short of was wisdom to realize that. Whenever I feel gloomy, my brother reminds me of that time and it sure does cheer me up.

What a complex and contradictory journey life is! Had I not put up with all that, I would not be writing this right now. I could be living in different circumstances, but thankfully something bigger than me knows best, am I right?

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