Sometimes allowing oneself to fail can be the hardest and the bravest move of all. I learned that lesson when I was seventeen and an exchange student in Spain.
I remember the moment I got accepted in the program like it was yesterday: I burst into tears of pure joy in the colorfully painted high school hallway. I started preparing myself fanatically for the journey into the unknown: self-studying Spanish as the language wasn’t available in our tiny school and adventuring on the streets of my hometown-to-be on Google Maps.
When I arrived in the historical city surrounded by a 2000-year-old wall, everything seemed to be exactly as I’d dreamt it would. My new friends were spinning drama even more loco than in Los Serrano, and we sneaked out on Friday nights to consume dirt cheap sangria on the cathedral steps. In just a week, my arctic skin tone had turned bronze in the late September sun. Yes, all the teachers were mean, but what else can you expect from a private, catholic institution?
It took me a few weeks to realize that the school and my host family weren’t ready to welcome a foreigner in their lives. Let’s leave it at that.
I never thought I would become the girl who cries herself to sleep in her room, muffling the sobs in the pillow so that even the family’s sneaky grandma wouldn’t hear her. Me: a sociable straight-A student, the leader of my town’s youth council, the innate achiever who spoke 5 languages already at high school age. But there I was, left with a nasty choice: stay miserable in Spain or go back home and bear the humiliation.
Up to this day, I’ve never felt happier than boarding that plane to Helsinki. Back to my loving family – who I used to find embarrassing and annoying. My loyal and funny friends – who I used to think of as nerdy. I could’ve never learned to appreciate them without leaving the country.
We should pay attention to how we speak about failure. When we try something, there are two possible outcomes: either making it or not. I’m pretty sure one teaches way more than the other.