Building character through frustrations
“Consider all the effort and time put forth; if something is accomplished without any sacrifice, it is not conditioning nor changing any aspect of character. The experience dissolves from the mind and body, leaving no evidence or progress, but fervent emotions and callouses.”
When I first started attending school, I dreaded being awakened late at night.
Sometimes, it was my dad who woke me up, but it was often my mom who would shake me until I awoke, groggy as any child would be as the hours reached midnight.
It was always the same: my parents would stay awake late at night, struggling to decipher legal documents or bills filled with jargon and woke me up to translate letters with grown-up language, representing institutions I would not be able to fathom for years. Looking at the long, fine-print words, I felt English had no appeal; its stilted language only drove my parents to desperation, as neither they, nor I, understood it.
With heavy eyelids and my sight still adjusting to the living room lamp’s fluorescent glare, I sat in the “interrogation chair.” No matter how long I stared, tears beginning to form, I could not understand the lofty diction.
My mom would ask me to define a word, one which I usually had never seen in my life, and when I admitted I did not know it, she would grimace, as if in disbelief that for all the hours I spend at school learning how the alphabet, I did not know words found on tax forms.
I began to view my knowledge of English as a burden, increasing my responsibilities and making me feel incompetent.
But my parents were not at fault. I was the one who knew the most English in my family; I was the one receiving a formal education in English. There was no one else they could ask for help.
Because I was receiving a formal education in English, my parents assumed I would be able to translate phrases such as “Tax Relief Reconciliation Act,” or “financial policies,” with which accountants or lawyers are familiar, but not kids in elementary school.
The language barrier oppressed them; they could not defend themselves against the bank statements and IRS letters, especially when they made so little money.
While I now understand my parents were not waking me up in vain, I resented the abrupt late night awakenings and the task that followed.
When I began writing, finding the precise words that would articulate my ideas should have been difficult, and weaving sentences should have taken me ages to become comfortable with yet it felt natural.
While I can attribute this ease to reading stacks and stack of books, I owe a lot to trying to find words I could easily substitute in Spanish, and my knowing two languages gave me leverage in learning the vocabulary words that descended upon us during high school.
Sometimes, the most grueling, tedious tasks, that seem to never provide any reward, end up enhancing our abilities the most.
Consider all the effort and time put forth; if something is accomplished without any sacrifice, it is not conditioning nor changing any aspect of character. The experience dissolves from the mind and body, leaving no evidence or progress, but fervent emotions and callouses.
Hence, as this year is nearing its conclusion, there may be lingering resentment or frustration due to difficult situations or pressing responsibilities, but know that these skills are building up; just as canyons and mountains achieve their grandeur through erosion and fierce weather, the flourishing of an individual is a process.