My Education Led to Extreme Insecurity

Yesterday, I had a phone call with a person I am interning with. Talking with this person often makes me nervous because I’m pretty invested in their project. When I started researching some of the ideas behind the initiative, I saw that a lot of the concepts were in line with values I had held before getting the internship. Getting the opportunity to work with this person is a chance to direct my efforts towards a project that means something to me on a different level. So, I was reasonably on edge.

However, after I hung up and started writing down what we had talked about, I wondered if that was all that was making me feel awkward. We spoke very briefly on the subject of education, but the few words we exchanged made me wonder if my school might have a role in how stiff I sound on the phone, and in general.

My boyfriend often makes fun of me for my “fake” voice. Even when I’m around friends, I tend to use intonation that just isn’t genuine. I don’t know if I would call it a defense mechanism, but more of a mask. It’s easy to speak in a slightly higher pitched sing-songy tone, especially when communicating something awkward or confusing. Still, I ask myself why I think it is more comfortable and if it actually works against me more often than not.

I reflect on all of the people I know that have used a similar technique to blunt hard conversations. I remember disliking them more than most others because I felt like they were not giving me the respect of speaking to me like an adult. Instead, they would slip into a chipper attitude and speak as though I were a child. Plenty of teachers come to mind when I think of these people.

Suddenly, the puzzle pieces were falling into place. My parents had rarely cooed or gushed over me when I was a child, so my first experience in public school was really strange. I remember being really upset when a teacher once asked me if she needed to “slow down” her words so I could understand. Even in primary school levels, I realized what it felt like to be talked down to. How did I come to adopt the vocalization patterns that the people I resent used on me?

In many ways, I think it leads back to conformity within the school system. My fake voice habit is a side effect of extreme insecurity and nervousness that developed while going through school. I have been relatively open about how ridiculously tyrannical my education was and the many negative scars it left on me. Being ridiculed and punished for speaking “out of turn” or questioning information presented to me made unconsciously seek out complacency and acceptance. My fake voice developed as a mask to hide behind while I dealt with abuse and neglect from a school that only cared about the test scores I gave them.

Extreme insecurity might be a bit, well, extreme of a description. I don’t think my uncertainty extends very far into my life, but it is quite prevalent in my communications and interactions with people I admire or deem valuable. I know that this may come back to bite me someday. My fake voice might piss off the wrong person and leave my name on some interning/hiring blacklist. I do take comfort in the fact that I am aware of its origins and why it was necessary for me to acquire it.

In my opinion, the education system does an abhorrent job at making students capable of marketing themselves and being confident in their abilities. I don’t blame teachers for this, I think they have been confused about their roles and systems for a long time. However, a good starting place would be to stop talking to children and young adults as though they are six months old. An even better place to start would be treating all students with the respect of a colleague or team member. It is insane hypocrisy to ask for communicative high schoolers that have been treated as subordinates their entire lives.

In the end, the phone call went well. I’m truly ecstatic to be working with this person because, as I said before, I am a firm believer in many of their ideas. I was grateful to just be offered the opportunity, but now I know that I need to prove how much I can add to the project if I want to see any kind of future there. But those ideas are much farther ahead. For now, I understand that this is a product of a destructive environment and I can overcome it. I just might sound a bit fake in the process.

Eloragh

 

Advertisements

French Variation

Around 11:30am EST, I drove onto the island of Montreal, QC with my father. I’ll be living here until July 25th to participate in a ballet intensive. I came a few days early to set up a bank account, get my McGill student ID (yes, my picture did turn out awful), and get my social insurance number for when I move up here permanently in August.

We’re staying in a VRBO until I can move to my long-ish term apartment, so we went down to the Marche Jean-Talon to get some groceries. Montreal summers can be brutal, but we were lucky enough to arrive on a mild, breezy day. As we walked down the streets next to the market, I thought about the parallels between Quebec and Senegal, another French-speaking place I visited recently. I also noted how French colonization had influenced both areas differently.

For reference, Senegal was a French colony until 1960 when it gained independence. In places such as Thies and Saint-Louis, the architecture and culture mimic French style very clearly. Much like Montreal, becoming independent didn’t mean losing the French lifestyle or development, it just meant political and economic freedom. The difference lies in how each country has changed since becoming its own nation.

Canada has undoubtedly had a much longer time (93 years longer) to expand its economy and form its political system than Senegal has. Canada also has a much more diverse economy, with lumber, fishing, and oil being just a few of its many resources. Senegal really only has its fishing industry and phosphate, a mineral that many westerners travel to Africa to mine and sell. Canada has little regulation and restriction on trade and business relative to Senegal, which has made it very difficult to export/import and nearly impossible for an average citizen to become an entrepreneur.

There are certainly more aspects that make up the difference between these countries. Just their geography alone has a great influence on the relative wealth of each former French colony. The fact that Canada is technically still within the British common-wealth probably helps as well.

I’m no expert on either country, but my thoughts often wander to these ideas when in a French-speaking country/province. I think my history classes definitely neglected the scope of influence that French colonization had on the world. The education I received focused mainly on England and, while the English obviously had a giant impact through exploration and expansion, other countries such as Spain, France, and Portugal also established themselves as countries of expedition and growth during the same time.

My blogs usually come down to this idea, and maybe I’m nitpicking here, but this is yet another flaw I see in traditional education. There are never enough school days to develop a thorough understanding of any period of history. In homeschooling/unschooling environments, students have the freedom and time to learn as much about anything they want without sacrificing the exciting details for the big ideas.

But that’s just my opinion.

Eloragh

 

 

Cool People Magnet

The man in the featured photo for this blog is Rosey. He is a “cool people magnet,” as my teacher Beth described him. I attended professional development with him, Dr. Yonty Friesem, and several teachers from all around Northern New Mexico yesterday. It was a privilege to get to see Yonty again, I have a lot of respect for him and his dedication to student-driven media education. During the first two hours, the teachers were working on the curriculum, while I was helping Rosey with some side projects.

A man named Ferdi Serim attended the PD to promote his project Levers, which reminded me a lot of Praxis, an apprenticeship program I am very much interested in. Anyway, Ferdi showed up and started talking about how he had played with Dizzy Gillespie when he was younger. He tried to show us this technique Dizzy taught him called the “human metronome” but we couldn’t find a single video demonstrating it. Ferdi just ended up showing us the method himself, but then Rosey proposed that we shoot a video and see if we can’t get it aired somewhere.

So, for the next hour or so, I was in a separate room helping them film the “human metronome” that Ferdi so desperately wanted to document. It was interesting, I felt like I was on a real film set. Any area with a camera rolling is a real film set, but this felt different. The cameras were placed with care and intent, the background was adjusted until it was perfect, and we shot from two different angles to give a clear view of his hands.

This may sound like a simple set up, and it was, but there was something about how much thought was put into every detail of this two-minute video that made it special to me. Watching all of these cool people create something that seemed so professional in such an informal space was exciting and insightful. So many people shun their passion for jobs such as media production because they don’t have “professional equipment.” Working with Rosey and the UNM Taos Digital Media Arts Lab has taught me that a good producer will work with what they have and still make a phenomenal product.

On my way home, I was wondering if a magnet was the right word to describe Rosey. The word magnet made it seem as though he couldn’t help that those amazing people and opportunities gravitated towards him, they just did. It undermines the incredible amount of work and pride he puts into what he does.

He created a non-profit education initiative called True Kids 1 that helps students develop skills in media and then shows them how they can build a career out of it. He is dedicated to teaching young people that their passions and interests are theirs to conquer. Rosey continues to advocate for young people’s voice to be heard and considered on topics that affect the state, the country, and the world. He believes in empowering the people that will make up the future, not destroying their free thinking.

TK1 is the reason I did my radio shows, worked with Yonty, and moderated panel discussions on a classic film series. I cannot even begin to explain how much Rosey has done for me or how much my confidence has grown since working with him. He trusted me with so many projects and tasks that I never thought I was capable of. He always wanted my help and my participation in events because he knew that I would show up and I would do the work he asked.

Rosey is not a “cool people magnet,” he’s a hard worker, a forward thinker, and a fantastic delegator. I aim to be as ambitious and creative as he is in his work and I am so grateful that I got to work under him as my mentor.

As I write this blog, I am on a flight to Montreal. Rosey has made it clear that my departure from the mountains is not going to be easy on him. It is nice to know I will be missed, but in some ways, I am drawn to the growing group of innovators located in my little valley. McGill seems so far away from the people I worked so hard to connect with. I have promised to always be available for remote work, but I know that can only go so far in a media environment.

Yesterday was not the last time I will see Rosey. I’ll be coming back to the Rockies in August to work with him and TK1 as an organizational manager. That month, however, will be my last hurrah with my team. I’ll miss them, maybe enough to come back. The future is uncertain, but I know it is rich with opportunity.

Eloragh

 

Doing Others Work

I spent the majority of my day creating three separate spreadsheets to organize the courses I’m allowed to take at my university. Yes, I took my time to sort them into terms, class days, registration numbers, and class times. I did this because the list of approved freshman courses had no options to filter through the classes, making registration – an already frustrating process – even worse.

I’ve already written about my initial struggles of registering for classes in my blog Registration, but I had no idea the depth of my problems when I wrote it. I have created at least four separate schedules that have all been disrupted due to classes filling up, teachers leaving, or other students taking priority. I decided to make these spreadsheets so I could create 10-12 possible schedules for both my fall and winter term. As a freshman, I have the last registration date, meaning that I will most likely get stuck with classes I am not incredibly happy with. I wanted to minimize my boredom and the amount of time I spend in classes, so I decided to take the majority of the process into my own hands.

However, I don’t think I should have had to make those spreadsheets. Every category I used to sort my courses could easily be converted into a filter system on the approved courses page. I sat there, wading through class after class, putting every single one into the schedule builder to find it’s code and times and days. I felt like an idiot. Ever since I enrolled at this school, I have done more work than ever before and have been paying to do it.

I thought a lot about how I would optimize my university’s website. Because of its range of students and degree options, it has a lot of different pages that students need to access. It’s great that the university has worked so hard to have all of the information available, but it is not easily accessible. I remember finding pages a few months ago that I cannot seem to find again. The maze of hyperlinks and PDF files that every new click takes me to is overwhelming. This lack of structure, organization, and efficiency has left me feeling disillusioned, yet again.

A lot of people have questioned my doubts about college, blaming them on “manipulative” friends, people I admire who I “could never be,” and “propaganda.” When I look at their concerns, I see legitimate care in the form of less caring remarks, but then again, I also see my time already being wasted by an institution of higher education that claims to be “different.” Just the fact that I have to make 10-12 backup schedules to make sure I get a course load I can live with is ridiculous. I have been shoved to the back of the priority line and told to be grateful for it.

So far, I am unimpressed. I can’t get over this idea of losing priority or being considered lower in comparison to more senior students. I worked for four years to achieve some level of respect, only to have it stripped away in the name of security. Security that doesn’t even exist anymore! No wonder college students are so depressed and weary. After dealing with borderline bureaucratic tasks such as registration for four years, all we will have to show for it is an insufficient degree, low wages, and student loans.

It’s becoming a lot harder to see my money and time being drained by a system that has made it clear they don’t care about me and won’t care about me until I’m a senior. I went through this once before, and I am less than eager to do so again. Maybe I’ll finally snap and leave college, or perhaps I’ll stick through it for four years and leave the burden of my student loans to people who are more than willing to pay for them. It will all come down to this fundamental question: how much is my sanity worth?

Eloragh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to be a DJ

I was 17 when I was offered my first job as a DJ. I had done my senior project on education and how I had made my way through the broken system. The final product prompted one of my mentors to ask me to host a radio show about ed reform. I was an amateur media enthusiast at the time. My only experience with media work was the documentary I had made the previous year. Although that documentary won its category, I couldn’t deny it’s mediocrity. I went into the studio, doubting my ability to act as a mediator and draw ideas out of my peers, but I left feeling elated. Not only was I capable of my job, I was fantastic. Our show was a success and it was the first time I had ever heard young people around me sharing their stories and criticizing the system they were forced into.

My next show was about gun violence and reform. In the wake of the Parkland shooting, we wanted to bring the student voice to light again. We had a lot of contrasting views in the studio, but regardless of the difference in opinion, everyone agreed that the Stoneman Douglass students represented a new wave of young adults who were not only willing to have their voice heard, but demanded it. The recognition that I had experienced with my first radio show began to feed my confidence. I knew I was capable in the technical side of the studio, now I wanted to challenge myself as a leader.

I did my third show today. It was more of a marketing program, but it still meant a lot to me. I am currently working with Dr. Yonty Freisem to promote his Media Production Hive curriculum. True Kids 1 and Dr. Freisem’s curricula fit together perfectly, with both sides focusing on media education, student voice, literacy, and empathy. Our show was truly just an advertisement and informational piece on this effort, but we were still able to converse in a Socratic form. As we finished our discussion on what it meant to be conscious on social media and the importance of teaching students to be digital citizens, I felt more comfortable in the studio than ever before.

So that was it, three shows in and I felt like a real DJ. I would be lying if I said the content of my broadcasts were consistent, but the quality of them are. At the beginning of the show, I talked a little about how important it was for me to be given an opportunity to act professional and operate in a professional setting. My mentor jumped in and told me how he wanted everyone involved in the program (True Kids 1)  to excel as much as I did. Although I appreciate his comments, I can’t say that the quality of excellence I was able to achieve is unique to me.

Why are my achievements seen as rare or uncommon? They’re not. The only difference between myself and every other student in school today is that I was granted the chance to act as a professional in a setting I was interested in. Doing a radio show sounded exciting and new, so I naturally wanted to appear prepared and poised. By just allowing me the opportunity, my mentor had already given me a reason to reach for a higher level of quality. I wanted to prove that nothing stood in my way of doing the best job possible. I wasn’t going to allow my age or my education dictate what kind of professional environment I did well in. I was going to let my passion, my drive, and my happiness tell me where I should place my efforts.

From what I’ve seen, a lot of students don’t feel as though they deserve a chance similar to the one I was given. Public education has a funny way of crushing a young person’s self-esteem and making them disassociate from the “adult” world. However, when given the opportunity to integrate themselves into a world of skill and experience, they are so grateful and excited that they will strive to be their best without any outside force.

How to be a DJ is the same thing as how to have a job you enjoy. Every student, every person who is willing to show how hard they can work is deserving of an opportunity to act on that will.

However, being deserving of an opportunity doesn’t mean it will come along by chance. Being young is difficult, people will automatically assume you are less capable, but that just means they will be even more pleasantly surprised when you prove your worth. Get yourself that opportunity, network, make friends, ask for a chance, do your research, always work harder than you did yesterday, and show them the value they don’t expect. We can make excuses about things we cannot control, but achieving excellence is not about focusing on the obstacles, it’s about looking for the solutions.

Eloragh

A Military Education

I went to my best friends graduation today. 363 other seniors walked the stage with her, all in a perfect shade of evergreen. The girls’ high heels faded in and out as they moved closer and farther from the microphone, almost like the drumbeat of a military march.

The students filed in, directed by underclassmen, as though they couldn’t find their way to their assigned seats. I’ve always thought graduation and commencement ceremonies were ironic. Students are finally being set free from an institution that has assessed them from the moment they had any semblance of thought. It is ironic that their last act as a student is to walk into yet another regimented performance and gush about how wonderful the previous four years of their life had been.

You see, I moved away from this particular school district five years ago. I couldn’t help but feel a pang of hurt watching all of my old friends gather to celebrate their accomplishments. I also felt a pang knowing that these people had gone through the same pain I had suffered in high school. They stood at a podium and thanked their teachers, the people who had executed their torture and accepted checks for it. This may sound cynical, but I think all teachers know how wrong the system is, regardless of what they say. It’s just a matter of time before they realize that we’re herded like cattle.

This was the 118th graduating class of this school. 118 groups of students had gone through the same procession. Their individuality, creativity, and achievements all being grouped under Class of XXXX. All of their individual accomplishments are dispersed among the rest of their students under the umbrella that is their class. But just like many other western institutions, we value humility and generosity in all aspects of our lives. The school system has taken that to mean sharing efforts, even if the work to achieve them wasn’t.

Eloragh

A Ballerina Scorned

This was originally posted on May 13th, 2018 at Original Path.

Relationships often form out of necessity and chance. My love for ballet was a complete accident and would have never developed if anything about my discovery of it had been different. There were and still are so many obstacles for me to overcome as a dancer, but it is easy to greet them with confidence after two years of watching myself grow after jumping over a hurdle. I needed ballet to push me to see those opportunities in a positive light. Until I started dancing, I thought school was doing something similar – showing me what I was capable of and asking me to push past it. After I experienced true joy in my work, I saw how poisonous my education had been.

I came into ballet through weird circumstances. I started in 2016 as an assistant to a dance teacher and when I took the job, I was just looking for a way to make a little bit of cash. However, my ambitious personality was intrigued by the high expectations of the technique. I started watching the Royal Opera House’s YouTube channel and fell in love with the grace and athleticism of the art. It was a quick addiction after that.

Fast forward to 2018, I’ve been dancing for two years and am now in a pre-professional training program; I’ve progressed faster than I ever thought I would. I often wonder what motivated me to work so hard considering all the odds that were stacked against me. From the start, ballet and I did not get along. I came to dance when I was 15 and refused every stereotype thrown my way. In my mind, ballet and everyone involved in the art wanted to see me give up. Many people have asked me why I didn’t quit after everything dance put me through. The answer is simple – and what connects this to compulsory education – spite.

Every human is pushed by something different, but my motivation came from the challenge. I was never, and still am not, good at ballet. I am physiologically disadvantaged for the technical style. External rotation of the hips is the most rudimentary idea in classical technique, and I have very little of it. Despite this inherent setback, I was determined to improve. It was as though someone had walked up to me and said: “you’ll never be a decent dancer, so why even try?” Ballet felt like it was goading me to dare to prove it wrong. So I took this spiteful attitude and I used it to fuel my training. Eventually, my application expanded beyond dance.

I will admit, in some ways this was not productive. Junior year was not an easy year for me and I didn’t help myself by trying to be number one all the time. With that being said, spite was really my driving force for a good year and a half. After a teacher in Pennsylvania recommended a dieting book for me to read, I knew I had to be successful so I could meet her someday and show her how wrong she was. Ballet didn’t like me because I refused to fit into the box it thrived in. Similarly, the school system didn’t like me because I refused to sit down and shut up for four years.

Similarly to ballet, I came to Moreno Valley High School due to some strange circumstances. My family had to quickly pick up and move during the summer of 2013, so my parents were pressed to find a school district they were happy with. MVHS had been spoken of as the “number one school in New Mexico” and was supposed to be based on a progressive curriculum with an emphasis on communication. This seemed somewhat accurate my freshman year. I enjoyed school when I was in ninth grade; the administration was stable, the teachers understood our relationship to them, and the general atmosphere was positive and optimistic.

Things became steadily worse from there, however. We’ve had four or five directors since I enrolled, my teachers and I fight almost on a daily basis, and the feeling of the school is reckless and uninviting. Some people may claim that my last two complaints are just symptoms of being in the same place for four years, and, although I am sure my senioritis isn’t helping these situations, I can tell you that I have been feeling this way for a long time.

Since sophomore year, high school felt like an ocean. Those who could tread water and keep their heads above the waves for long enough got to graduate, and those who couldn’t drowned. I was never in danger of drowning, but when I got a C my freshman year, it felt like I had swallowed salt water. That semester has haunted me ever since, freshman English becoming a blight on my otherwise pristine transcript. The next year was fine, no C’s but nothing incredibly impressive either. It was also the year I got in my first big fight with my history teacher. My classmates and I were panicking; we were all taking our first advanced placement class, and we could tell how far behind we were. The majority of us decided that our teacher’s methods were ineffective and needed to be addressed. As I mentioned previously, the class was an AP class, meaning the test at the end of the year could grant us college credit, so her instruction was a matter of our future. When I approached her to talk about the issues we were having, she refused to discuss anything regarding her curriculum and I, being an impetuous sophomore, immediately got upset. Quickly after our disagreement, I felt disheartened by the education system for the first of many times and, because of this event, my deep spite for academics began to develop. From then on, I decided that I would use my anger and frustration towards the injustice I was facing as a source of energy for my studies.

“Junior year matters” is what everyone told me, so I figured this was the perfect time to use my newfound aggression towards public school and live up to the challenge. That year, I took three advanced placement courses, registered for two rounds of SAT’s, two SAT Subject Tests, and two rounds of ACT’s. On top of this, I enrolled at a more formal ballet school and started dancing twice the amount I had previously been. I worked myself harder than ever before and reaped the benefits. By the end of the year, I had reached my goal of achieving a 4.0 GPA, and I claimed it was all thanks to my need to “prove them wrong.”

However, spite cannot provide an endless drive, nor easy to live with. It is more difficult to find your motivation from pessimism and animosity than I had imagined. After years of being compared to my peers through test scores, class ranks, GPAs, community service hours, and many more methods of inaccurate measurement, I was crippled and exhausted of the high school rat race. Again, I became demoralized by my quick burnout. Spite was supposed to carry me to the podium, not drop me halfway to the finish line.

I grew to understand that spite, while somewhat helpful in the beginning, couldn’t sustain me forever. Even as I had progressed in ballet, my dedication no longer came from the spite I once held. In fact, I’m not sure it ever did. I had never needed any vengeful spirit to push me forward, as my own desire to grow stronger and work hard for the sake of doing so was enough. Once I understood this, I had a similar realization about academics: I was no longer passionate about learning, I was competitive about scoring. Twelve years of public education had taught me to compare myself to others to improve my own performance. It took me almost that long to realize how impossible it is to achieve anything when you’re forced into the shadows of others.

Although I knew public education had turned me into a shell of a teenager who survived off of high test scores, I also knew that I had to get my high school diploma. As much as I wanted to throw away three years of unnecessary work, it would have been too much of a detriment. I decided that I needed a new driving force, one that was not rooted in success above my peers. Since then, I’ve spent a long time nurturing my sense of passion and understanding, which have proven much more enduring.

Spite is fun, spite is scorching hot and fueled by a need to prove yourself. This year, I’ve seen my dedication and love for ballet grow as I have become a stronger and more capable dancer. I now understand why I thought spite would help me climb the ladder; I had confused my overwhelming love for ballet with scorn for those that had promised me I would fail. I desperately wanted this to be the case with school. I wanted to feel the fire for learning and education rekindle, but it was gone. There were no more coals to burn. I wondered if my fondness for learning was really a fondness for the praise that came with being the best.

There is a fine line between being vindictive and being challenging, one that I could not perceive when I started down this path. Ballet had never benefitted from my failure like the public education system had. If I had only realized sooner that I had been entrapped in a lie. The lie that traditional school was my only option, the lie that I should be grateful for the opportunities school and only school could offer me, the lie that I was stranded.

Suddenly, I saw why so many students were bored and tired of traditional education – they had never been exposed to the full range of their options.

Ballet and school presented me the same options: do well and get stronger or refuse the work and risk losing your passion. However, I’ve only ever had a love for one. Both respective fields are so difficult to “do well” in, and I would never have worked hard in either of them without the incentives they both offered. The difference is, ballet provided me with happiness, purpose, and passion while school provided me with fear and ultimatums. Unfortunately for the public education system, students are opening their eyes. The false threats against our future are falling more and more on deaf ears as we continue to educate ourselves on the disadvantages of traditional academics.

Now we are seeing a surge in common sense and logic being used against public school. Just because students are young doesn’t mean they don’t understand the fundamental laws of give and take. Why would a fourteen year old who hates math dedicate his precious, minimal free time to studying it? The return on investment is nominal if anything. Sure, his grade in the class may improve, but his quality of life would most likely not benefit. Education is dangerous because it encourages us to hold meaningless measurements above things such as happiness, experiences, and individuality. By reinforcing this idea of progress regarding assessment, schools are setting an alarming precedent for how students will evaluate their own lives as they mature.

Education is not pointless, it’s just misguided. When the current education system was implemented, conformity meant success. It’s been years since we truly reformed our schools and the world has not stopped to let them catch up. We don’t need 500 copies of the same individual who’s taken the same classes and knows all of the same information as everyone else around them. We lack in specialization, and we lack in decision making, two qualities that our modern world demands.

Students have to be presented with a choice and a chance. They need to choose what they want to put their energy into, and they need a chance to prove they’ll work hard and stick to their decision. Compulsory education has boiled down to the idea that students have to learn the same curriculum regardless of their future plans because everyone needs a “foundation.” Why start them on the path of “jack of all trades, master of none” from the beginning? Why not ask them about their interests and allow them to design a course of study that reflects that? Why not take a risk and see what happens?

This is what ballet has brought me to understand. It is far too easy to confuse passion with fear. For a long time, I have been afraid of failure. I was worried that a less than 4.0 GPA would spell out defeat, that the C on my transcript from freshman year was unforgivable. Whatever your “ballet” is, whether it be writing or yoga or meditation, whatever drives you to be the best person you can be, be grateful for it. Many people will never have the opportunity to enjoy their one true passion; many other people will find what they love, only to have it shut down by the notion that it won’t make them “successful.”

The education system is brutal and becomes more competitive every year, but we must encourage our students to approach risk with a sense of confidence, especially if that risk could impact the quality of their future. As students are asked to avoid unknowns and mistakes at all costs, what we are actually telling them is that success should come immediately and that failure at first means failure forever. We are telling them that if they are not good at something as soon as they start it, that they shouldn’t waste their time on it. These ideas are fabrications and serve to simplify educational curriculum. It is those who refuse to conform that will leave an impact, as they understand that the world would be a dull place if we all listened to what everyone told us.

The competition, the repetitive courses, and the lack of autonomy that schools structures are based on strip young people of their natural curiosity and receptiveness to new ideas. If we want students who can think for themselves, who can analyze a problem and use their creative output to derive a solution, we should start by letting them make their own decisions and live with them. If we are not free to make mistakes, we are not free at all. We need to stop supporting such apprehension towards failure, especially within the first years of life.

Two years ago, someone told me I was ridiculous for thinking I could have any future in ballet with the late start I was getting. I was scared, I was worried that I was starting down a path that I would regret. I wondered if spending my free time at ballet lessons every day would be worth it. Two years ago, I was faced with a potential mistake, but I continued nonetheless. Two years later, my name is listed under the principal dancers in my final production, and I am going to study at a professional ballet school in Canada. Think about that the next time anyone tells you that your passion isn’t worth pursuing.