How many languages can you speak?
I can only speak two, a rather common feat in such a globalised world. I have never consciously learnt another language, I’ve just grown up in a bilingual environment. I remember meeting a girl last year who was fluent five different languages: German, English, French, Japanese and Latin.
She told me that she wants to be a translator in the future and she’s on an exchange to improve her English. I was so happy for her because it seemed like she was on the right track to achieving her dreams. At the same time, I couldn’t help being a little envious. This envy was not just for her fluency in multiple languages, but more for the absolute certainty she held to her dream and the effort she put in to make it happen.
The story she told me about finding her niche went something like this:
“You know those Lets Play videos on youtube? Yeah. Those ones where gamers play all sorts of different games for entertainment. One of those guys was playing what was originally a Japanese game translated into English. The gamer was complaining about how bad the translations were and I agreed, they were absolutely terrible! It was then and there that I thought, you know what, I can do better.“
Such a simple little incident became a major turning point in her life. She has been to countries all over the globe on exchanges to improve her various languages, having to adapt to a new culture away from her family, make new friends, say good bye and repeat. From that brief chat, I could tell that she had absolute conviction in herself and what she wanted to be. It was as if she’d burn the oceans and flood the lands if they dared to stand in her way. I could relate to her in that moment because I have never lacked ambition either. I know exactly what I want to do with my life like she does. Unfortunately, I just haven’t been able to achieve substantial steps that take me in the right direction.
I have been thinking about her, because I have missed out on so many opportunities in life. My biggest weakness is that I often don’t put enough effort into what I do and as a result, I don’t reach my expectations. That’s something I’ve realised a long time ago and that I’ve worked on ever since. Therefore, you can imagine the disappointment when I found out that I scored a 2110 on my SATs. My scores didn’t even hit the upper 25% of students that attended my desired university. I spent an entire month cramming test paper after test paper and it felt like my efforts were futile.
However, after talking to a girl who got 2390/2400, I realised that the amount of time I put in was laughable compared to her. If success was based on merit alone, she deserved to be in much better places than I. It was a humbling moment, realising that unless I shaped up to my competition, no matter how grand my dreams, my life will be mediocre at best. I had been delusional. My friend, the girl who spoke 5 languages, they have fought for what they have gotten. I am a huge proponent that when there’s a will, there’s a way but I’d only realise recently that there is no way you’re getting anywhere close to where you want to go without sweat and tears, failures and new life lessons.
You’re looking at the writing of a girl who aspires to become a famous journalist in the future. She is absolutely terrified of death yet morbidly obsessed with stories of human survival against the odds. She hopes to travel the world and document the stories she hears without bias because every human has a unique perspective and a wealth of stories deserving of being shared without judgement.
It’s a harsh reality but“a dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work” that is proportional to your innate ability, competitors and drive.
It’s simple really.
- Find something. If you don’t know exactly what you want to do yet, go out, experience new things and find something. You’re allowed to change your mind but don’t be too indecisive because even if turns out to be not quite right, at least you’ll have the experience of wanting something and working for it.
- Write that something down. That’s how you make it tangible, so it becomes difficult to take back. If it becomes a series of words, it becomes something that is separate from you, something that you must take seriously as more than a wondering thought.
- Protect that something from others. We only get one life each, don’t let them steal yours and don’t let their words get you down. You are the one who will suffer the consequences of giving up too early or not starting at all. They get to tap out whenever they want. However, that’s not to say you should shut yourself off to other people’s influence and genuine care for you, they may be the very people that help you discover a new path that you have never considered.
- Protect that something from yourself. Dream big or small and attack it with tenacity. Don’t let yourself down by not putting in the hard work and just hoping for a serendipitous accident to grant you success. Don’t disillusion yourself that just because you really want something, it will be yours. That’s infantilising life and undercutting your ability to work towards what you want.
Good luck to you, good luck to Maggie, the girl who spoke 5 languages, and good luck to me.