My dad gave me advice that I will never forget. You're starting school next week right, he asked. “Yup, another year of torture”, I responded, and then I left the room, but I could tell that he was thinking when I walked away. About ten minutes later he called me back. I knew something was up because he called me hijo. He curses up a storm when he’s mad, he calls me by my name when everything is good, but he calls me hijo when he has something important to say. He’s been doing that my entire life, but I never noticed. Mom told me that he did this. He started the conversation with a deep sigh and his calm voice. I was worried. I thought he found out about me slacking off in school again, so I just listened. He said, imagine going to school next week and thinking about torture, pain, misery, and how hard or boring it’s going to be. What have you done so far? How do you feel? Are you motivated? I had no idea where he was going with this. You know that I was just playing when I said “another year of torture” right dad? He said, yes I know, but it’s a mindset, an important one that has a lot to do with telling your future. He asked again, what have you done so far? How do you feel? I was confused and not sure what he wanted me to say.
You probably feel uninterested, a bit down, and maybe even discouraged, he said. The answer is “nothing”, you've done nothing so far. It was only a thought and a few words. You’ve done nothing yet. It’s like you’re putting up with school, trying to survive, getting by, and getting through the torture. I was just playing, I reminded him. “Yes, I know” he reminded me. He sighed again, and said, how you think about something affects how you interact with it, use it, respond to it, and what you do with it. You see that book over there. And I turned like an idiot. How likely are you to pick it up and read it if you already think it’s boring? Your classes, how likely are you to want to pay attention or try to understand how they matter if you’re already thinking about how torturous they are? He ended with; “thinking affects doing and determines your future with it”. Then he just stood quiet. I did to. I remember wanting to say something, but I really didn't know what to say. I knew it made sense, but I didn't know what it all meant.
As we got in the car so he could drop me off a week later, dad reminded me of our conversation. He said, “hijo determine your future”. I just replied with, “I will”. We were quiet the whole way. Looking back I knew I was just playing when I used the word “torture”, but I think I kind of meant it in a way. I really did think about school in that way. School was something we had to do. We had to do homework. We had to pay attention. We had to learn. It was weird, but it was hard because I always described school the same ways. I didn't know any other way to think about school. It wasn't until weeks later that I started to realize what dad was really saying. I never thought about wanting to go to school, or trying to figure out why school mattered, or how to get better at school. High school was just something we all do. Things were definitely boring sometimes, but I never thought about how to keep things interesting. I wasn't figuring out how to pay attention, instead, I was figuring out how to stay awake. It sounds odd, but it’s not the same thing. I wasn't thinking about working hard in school, I was just thinking about passing my classes to avoid getting in trouble or my mom taking away my phone.
Looking back, my goal was just passing the class because of the way I thought about school. It kind of bugged me because I knew I was smart enough to do much better, but I wasn't doing the things I needed to do to get there. I had to remind myself a lot, but I learned how to think about school differently. After a while my words started changing and one thing led to another. I kept saying to myself, “determine your future” all the time. I didn't know how or what that meant, until I eventually asked myself. How do I do it? This led to me asking myself a lot of questions, which eventually led to pretty interesting answers. What do I really want? I want to barely pass my classes? No. Does school really have to be torture? No. Am I really ok with Cs? No. Can I do better? Finally, yes! Ok, how? Why? What will it take? What will it take always led to all the specifics. And from there I never stopped. I’m 20 years old now. I can trace back thinking about school differently after my dad and I had that one talk. I never got another C. I walk into classes thinking that I will earn an A. And sure enough, when it’s time to plan and do, I do. I realize that there is a strategy to everything. Just thinking is definitely easy, but following through and setting high goals definitely pushes me to work toward them. I’m heading toward the last semester at a community college. School is no longer “torture”. College has only gotten much harder to be honest, but I’ve kept getting better at thinking about how far I can go. Now, school is just a path to become successful. I look forward to transferring to a university. Gracias dad.
- Salvador Santos