Head Over Heart
5:30 am. I wake up with the alarm and start to get ready for school.. Everybody else in the house is sleeping; they will wake up in about an hour. I rush to be on time because if I am late again I will miss school. After putting on my uniform I hear my ninety-one years-old grandmother ringing her bell, so I go to her bedroom. She wants to change her position on bed, and since she can’t do it herself I turn her. Then I carefully check my parents’ bedroom to see if the noise woke them. Fortunately it didn’t, probably because they stayed up late, taking care of my little sister and my grandmother. I smile because I know that those thirty minutes that they still have to sleep will improve their mood for the rest of the day. While I’m brushing my teeth, getting ready to leave, my dad wakes up and goes to my bedroom to wake up my sister. I hope today he doesn’t give up like yesterday and let her miss another day of school, but I know how tired both of them must be. I say goodbye and leave, wishing that this weekend my father gets a gig, since last month he didn’t make any money, a common occurrence on his freelancer job. He seems okay, but I know that he feels worried with all the debts we have: electricity bill, telephone bill – one more month and they will cut it off, – apartment taxes, my sister’s old school’s bills, and all the bank loans we accumulated. After closing the door I remember that today is one of the long days: I will be back around 7:00 pm, after a tiring day of classes in my two schools. I feel tired in advance, but I ignore this feeling and walk confidently to the street to face the day. After all, I chose to attend two schools at the same time because I know that my hard work is the best way to achieve the security my parents don’t have.
This was my routine during the three years of high school. Classes in the morning from Monday through Saturday, and in the afternoon three days a week, responsibilities at home that went beyond the regular house chores, including taking care of my grandmother and my little sister, doing grocery shopping, and sometimes going to pay a bill at the bank, plus a constant apprehension about my family’s present and future finances. All that made me more mature than most of my friends my age and gave me one certainty about my future: I had to make money in my career.
I know that most people say that we should follow our dreams when choosing a career because if we do what we love we will eventually be successful and well paid, but I don’t buy it. Both my parents did that and, despite the fact that they love their jobs, they didn’t have the means to raise three kids without acquiring huge debts and an insecure future. My mother was a dancer, a circus artist, an acrobatics teacher for kids, and a Pilates instructor. My father was a sound engineer. Neither of them had a retirement plan, so my brother and I were responsible for the family’s income after they stopped working. I don’t complain about that. They did the best they could to provide us the best life possible, and I’m grateful for that. But I knew since I was fifteen that I didn’t want to follow the same path and struggle to support my future family.
Even though I chose the money path while choosing my career I also tried to find a job that I would enjoy. Since I never had a dream job I analyzed every possibility in a search to reconcile financial security and an interesting career. My only dream was to have a regular salary in a secure job, so I thought about being a lawyer, a professor, a government employee, a computer programmer, a businessman, an engineer, and even an airplane pilot. Still, after lots of thinking, there I was: eighteen years-old, in my senior year, with great grades at school, constantly being greeted by teachers, friends, and family with phrases like “you can do whatever you want!” or “it’s up to you, you can do it!” and yet I had no idea of what to do for living. At that time I couldn’t imagine that I would end up where I am today. I had to give up having fun on my work in order to live a comfortable life, but now I can look back with no regrets.
All that being said, you are now ready to understand my life. This is not a simple compilation of facts, but a story about how a value that I carried with me since my adolescence – financial security as a priority – affected all the decisions I made since my first year in high school: applying to two of the best federal public schools in Brazil, being accepted both in the academical and in the technical one, studying abroad for a year with the main objective of learning English, and choosing between going to college in the U.S. or in my home country. It’s a story about all the “whys” behind significant decisions I made in my life that might seem contradictory or even wrong to most people. I hope it makes you understand me and maybe rethink decisions you make in your life. Enjoy it.