Now that the year is coming to an end, I would like to highlight one of the most important things I’ve learned this year. Something that will stay with me no matter what I’m doing or where I’m at. This year I’ve learned that there are things that are more important than a good grade. I remember my first day in the IA, the only thing I was thinking about was to do everything right in order to get a good grade at the end of the year. After first day I was really surprised because I figured that doing things “right” was subjective, there was no one telling me what to do, so I had no one to impress or follow. In the end, I’m the only one who can decide weather I’m doing things right or not, there’s not an exact line I can cross, but it all depends in how much effort I’ve put into my work, and how proud of it I am.
Now think about the value of getting a top mark in a test, when you actually didn’t learn anything, but instead memorized every answer in the test. Did you give your best effort possible? No. Are you going to remember any of that content in the future? Probably not. So why should you be proud of your mark? You probably didn’t give a great test, but instead did the least possible work in order to obtain the best possible grade. I learned that your work has absolutely no value unless you are completely proud of what you’ve done regardless your grade or the opinions of others.
I want to speak about my POL this year. Last week was one of the most stressing weeks of my entire life. I was so stressed in fact, to the point that if it would have been an ordinary presentation I would have told the teacher that I couldn’t do it, and that I would rather get a zero. But this presentation was different, I didn’t care if my peers thought it was a good presentation, I didn’t care if they gave me a low grade for the presentation, but I wanted to create something a would be proud of. I had really high expectations of myself, and I wasn’t willing to let myself down. It was so hard to create this presentation because it broke all the grade boundaries, it went much further than that, I was expecting so much more of myself.
In the end, I managed to deliver a presentation that I was truly proud of. A year ago I would have never believed that I could achieve something that great, but apparently I could If I worked hard enough. Sometimes I feel like grades are limiting us to a scale of one through seven , when actually we have the capacity to achieve so much more. Imagine if in my POL I would have settled for a grade between one and seven, I wouldn’t have been able to create such a great presentation. We are the ones who can push ourselves the most by setting high expectations, and by creating work that makes us proud instead of satisfying others.
A miner’s job is to search through mines with the purpose of finding. In order to find new gems the miner must explore new areas or locations within the mine, traveling the unknown. Now imagine a miner who spends his whole life searching through the same area of the mine; reasonably he will never find anything new due to that he’s traveling the same path over and over.
Stepping away from the miner and gem mines, I want to speak about the importance of trying new things. Throughout my whole life I’ve been the kind of person who likes to stay in her comfort zone; let’s just say I don’t like to travel the unknown. As well as the miner, I found myself doing and trying the same things over and over. I refused to try anything new, because that meant losing control of what could happen.
Two months ago when I got the news that the 10th grade class was having a trip to Lunahuana, I couldn’t have been less exited about the trip. In fact I was completely against going to that trip. Camping wasn’t something I was familiarized with, so that would mean stepping out of my comfort zone; plus I wasn’t fascinated by the idea of having to sleep in a tent or cooking my own food.
Never the less, now that the trip is over I can honestly look back and say that I had an amazing time and I don’t regret for a second going. You see naturally as human beings, we don’t like what we don’t know. Of course it’s hard to try new things, it’s hard to let go of what we know and delve into the unknown; but after all, that’s what life is all about. Isn’t life about taking chances and opportunities? Accepting the fact that sometimes we’ll fail just as well as sometimes we’ll succeed? Isn’t life all about learning to cope with that uncertainty inside us, and confront the unknown?
The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the word freedom is slavery. I think about all those people who were deprived from their freedom, and forced to serve someone else. So if you asked me a month ago if I believed I was free, the answer would have been yes. Never the less, if you ask me now, the answer would have been completely different.
Within a Peruvian culture, I’ve been raised to believe that the boundaries that society puts us are unbreakable. I’ve always been told what I should do and what I shouldn’t, to the point that my soft wired brain has been molded to fit society’s boundaries. For example, little boys are raised with the stereotype that boys should be strong and tough. Even years later, boys grow with this mindset that deprives them from crying or showing their feelings. So this brings me to the question; how does the culture and environment we live in mold our brain and the way we think?
Am I a slave of society?
I kept on thinking about this topic, and came across habits and phobias. Can we control them? No. But can we gradually defeat them? Yes. Some people have the bad habit of biting their nails when they get nervous, they aren’t aware when they are doing it, and aren’t in control of it; but their brain is. On the other hand, I have a tremendous fear that could be considered a phobia, a fear of shots. Everytime I have to get a shot, I get very anxious, I start thinking about how much it will hurt me, and I loose control of my mind. Can I control this fear? No.
Am I a slave of my fears and habits?
Finally I came to the conclusion that neither the brain controls us nor we control the brain. Naturally, the brain will take control when we are not capable of dealing with what we are confronted to. Never the less, we can learn to control the brain, we can learn to control what we feel, what we want, and what we fear, etc. Freedom begins when we stop seeking for other’s approval, and become insensitive to the boundaries set by society.
Every Saturday, or at least almost every Saturday of the month, I start my day by visiting the Cayetano Heredia hospital with the community and service club. I love visiting the hospital, it makes me feel like I’m doing something productive with my life, like I’m sharing a bit of my joy with people who need it the most at the moment.
This Saturday, I came to the hospital expecting to help people, but actually I was the one who ended up learning something from them.
When I came in this Saturday, I met a little girl called Alexandra. She was suffering from a disease which I didn’t even dare to ask about, but I knew it was serious because she couldn’t even sit down, and her mother wouldn’t stop talking about a surgery she was about to have. I started talking to her mom, a tall big women who seemed to have a permanent smile. She told me about how she had to leave the rest of the family and her job to come to Lima so Alexandra could get proper medical care. She explained how she was hoping that everything would go all right in the surgery, because they were having financial trouble, and couldn’t afford more treatments.
I instantly felt sorry for her, I tried to imagine how hard it would be to leave everything behind and struggle to find a medical institution that would take your 10-year-old daughter who is suffering from an unknown disease. It seemed like hell to me; but she managed to look at her life from a completely different angle. She spoke to me as if everything that her family was going through at this time, was a miracle instead of a nightmare. She certified me that she was thankful for finding a medical institution where her daughter could stay, thankful for the possibility of her daughter getting better, and thankful for every moment she spent with her daughter, even if it were to be the last one.
I truly was fascinated with this women’s ability to look at things in a positive way. This reminded me of how I’ve been taking things in my daily life for granted; we tend to think that things like being healthy, or having a good economic situation are rights we are all born with, when actually there are people in our country who are struggling with both, and are still thankful for the little they have.
After a morning full of joy and laughs I left the hospital with something I didn’t possess when I woke up this morning, the ability to appreciate everything I have. I find it amazing how people who have so little and are suffering so much, can be so thankful with what they have, and even be willing to help someone who has basically everything. I entered the hospital hoping to help people who were going through rough times, but actually they were the ones who ended up helping me.
Last week I finished my application to become a PGC leader; the last stage of the application was a retreat were the application was taken to a whole more personal level were we where tested on our abilities. A PGC leader is someone who is capable of setting an example of a role model student to the upcoming freshmen; the role of a PGC leader is to approach the freshmen in a friendly manner, and help them ease their transition to high school. During the retreat, the former PGC leaders spoke to us about what it takes to become a PGC leader. I never thought it would be such a big responsibility. I figured that by becoming a PGC leader, I was committing to a big responsibility. I didn’t only have to be responsible for myself now, but also for the freshmen; meaning that everything I do will affect them in a positive or negative way. This puts me in a position of great responsibility were I have to be more cautious with what I do, and the reputation I maintain. Having such a big responsibility really frightened me; the fact that I have the power to control how the next four years of the freshmen’s life will turn out really terrifies me. So I began to think, am I ready to take such a big responsibility? Can I handle this? I don’t know, and I guess I will never know until I accept the challenge.
Last week Mr. Bon spoke to us about vanity metrics, and actionable metrics, I’ve been thinking about this for a few days now, and I came to a question.
HOW CAN YOU MEASURE SUCCESS?
You see we all work hard hoping to become “successful people”, but think about it; how successful do you have to be in order to be considered a “successful person”? How do you measure success?
The typical image we have of a successful person is someone with a lot of money who is really popular and well known among others. But tell me; are money and popularity actionable measures of success? Of course not! Money and popularity are what we call, vanity metrics. We tend to think that we can measure success by the amount of money we have, or the amount of people that know us; but the truth is, money doesn’t mean absolutely anything if you earned it doing something you hate, or if you have no one to share it with, on the other hand, being popular and knowing a lot of people, has absolutely no value if none of those people are real friends.
The question that tortures my mind now is:
Is there a quantitative way to measure success?
What do you want to do for the rest of your life? This is a question that we’ve heard a lot in the last two months. “It’s all about following your passion, and doing what you like” they say, “you wouldn’t want to end working in something you don’t like”.
Truth is we are only 16 years old; how are we supposed to have an idea close to what we want to do for the rest of our lives? Yes, we are all passionate about something, but passions come and go, they can change and vary, it’s completely normal for a teenager to change passions or interests constantly, because we are constantly exploring different fields and topics. What are the chances that you can actually know exactly the profession that fits you best, if you haven’t even had the opportunity to explore all the areas that interest you. What I’m trying to state here is that, for example, how am I supposed to know that I want to have a psychology-related career, if I haven’t had any experience in psychology, or psychology related topics?
But think about it, why do we have to make that decision now? In class, like in life, you can always decide to pivot and take another road. Nothing is set in stone, we should always continue exploring, and keep our options open; remember, you can change your career whenever you like. Actually, most people end up working in something completely different to what they majored in college. We shouldn’t think about what we want to do for the rest of our lives, that’s extremely hard to know, and almost impossible to predict at this point in our lives. Instead we should be thinking about what are our interests NOW, what brings us joy, what motivates us, what makes us happy; these are questions we should ask ourselves.
Doubt. That uncertainty feeling that makes us hesitate about our abilities, ideas, capacity, etc. We all live with certain uncertainties within ourselves, and encounter doubts along the way towards success. But what differentiates people who succeed and people who stay somewhere along the way towards success, is the way we choose to react to doubts.
This Monday I encountered a huge doubt. After separating from the “Cuéntame Perú” group, I found myself struggling to find a project. Arianna and I decided to stick together, while Emilio and Matthias drifted apart. It was Monday afternoon, and Arianna and I were planning to approach a project promoting autonomous learning in different schools around Lima. The idea sounds great when you hear it for the first time, but as soon as we started planning the project, a colossal feeling of doubt invaded my mind. I figured that I wasn’t passionate about this project, plus, I didn’t even think it would work. Regardless I decided to ignore the doubt and kept working, just hoping to finish with the project and get a good grade.
Mr. Bon noticed this uncertainty and lack of motivation, and requested to have a chat with me. I told him about how I doubted so much in the project, but still preferred to live with those doubts than to drift apart from Arianna and start my own project. After some reflective conversations with Mr. Bon, I finally understood that what I was doing was something completely foolish; I was hanging on to a project I didn’t believe in just by the fear of getting out of my comfort zone and making my own project depending in no one else than myself. I took a leap of faith, and decided to create my own project based on my personal interests: children education, and writing. I finally decided to write a children’s book
This experience provided me one of the most valuable lessons I have learnt in the IA.
Uncertainty isn’t what defines your project, but the way you react to it is.
As a student I found myself reflecting upon what was the best way to train students correctly so they could be well prepared for the rest of their lives. I started thinking about what kind of content would work best, or maybe in what way would kids learn best; but after a long and deep reflective period, I came to the conclusion that the best way to prepare students for the future and the rest of their lives is to teach them how to be autonomous and think for themselves. I think that a lot of times the value of autonomy is underestimated, when actually autonomy is the most precious skill that you can teach a learner.
Like the bible says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” It’s the same with students. You can teach a student any kind of content you like, but if he/she is used to only follow instructions and doesn’t know autonomy, then he/she will never have the power to drive his/her own life. Autonomy by dictionary means independence or freedom, as of the will or one's actions; it is having the power to drive your own life and be able to push yourself hard using nothing more than your own desire to learn. Something amazing about autonomy is that it’s the fact that you are completely free, and don’t have to depend on anyone else for motivation or to be pushing you to accomplish something.
I look back a year ago, and notice how a year ago I would have never even thought about jogging at 5am; this is proof of how I’ve learned and continue to learn to push myself harder everyday and find motivation in my ambition.
Today we pitched our projects to our parents, they gave us a lot of useful and valid feedback, but the one thing that stood out over everything else was that we should focus in only one topic instead of five, so that we could go more in depth instead of leaving each topic halfway done. This was completely valid, in fact we decided to change our project to only one video; after all it made a lot more sense. But again, we ran into the same problem we’ve had since the first day.
W E A R E T O O M A N Y P E O P L E F O R S U C H A S M A L L P R O J E C T.
This problem has been torturing the members of Cuéntame Perú since the first day we created the project, but we just seemed to ignore it because it was easier than having to face the reality. We decided to create more useless roles, using them as excuses just to not to have to split the group in two.
I think this new arrangement will do very good to me and to the people in my group, due to that it will push us to get out of our comfort zones and give our best work. Also like this is a small group, I think it’s a great chance for me to work on my leadership skills, that haven’t been really active during the last semester, and start taking leadership roles within the group.