When I was seventeen, my parents decided that they wanted to go back to Mexico. We had been living in the States for over a year, and I had so many plans, goals and dreams, and I couldn’t just give them up. I begged my dad to let me stay in Washington with his sister and her family, but he said no. Then, when my mom, my siblings and I visited an aunt in California, the one person that had always been there for all of us, she said I couldn’t stay with her either. I felt as if every door had been shut in my face. I couldn’t breathe; I was desperate as I felt all my hopes and dreams crumbling down.
But as the summer went on in Mexico, and I refused to unpack because I was sure I was going back to the States, a different aunt, one that I barely even knew came to visit. And without even asking, she said I could stay with her until I finished high school. So two days later, I was on a plane to Anaheim, California. And I didn’t even think of everything I was leaving behind, until I was way too high up in the sky.
The next six months were more than just complicated. I was living with a stranger. I didn’t have any friends. My dad didn’t speak to me for a whole year; he didn’t call for Christmas, neither for New Year, he didn’t even call for my birthday. I think he was scared of how easily I had just run off, following the things I wanted. Maybe he didn’t see that it was really hard on me, leaving everything I knew behind, but for me, every part of the pain was worth it. My mom did call me every single day. And it was enough for me. At least I didn’t feel so lonely 24/7. My new high school was very different from the one in Washington. My first day was a complete mess. I ran around looking for every classroom, too scared to ask for directions. But there was one particular class that I was really late to. It was after lunch break, and I spent about ten minutes looking for the classroom, until I finally asked someone and they guided me in the right direction. I opened the door and everyone turned their heads towards me. The teacher was in front of the class. He made an annoyed face as a few students kind of laughed. I stood there expecting him to tell me I couldn’t come in, but he told me to find a seat. He sounded as if he was in a hurry. I’m not going to lie, that teacher really intimidated me. Out of all my new professors, I thought he’d be the only one I’d have trouble getting along with. Especially since he was my english teacher. You see, I had always struggled with that one, since english is my second language. Back in Washington I had been lucky enough to have a teacher that understood my situation and wouldn’t let me give up. He worked with me and he gave me extra material so that I could understand the books we were reading. But judging by the tone of his voice and the look on his face, I wouldn’t be so lucky with this one.
Our first assignment was to write a small essay about what had made us who we are. I started writing at home, and as usual I got carried away. I wrote five pages about who I was. My english was not perfect, I knew, but I was also sure my teacher wouldn’t read an entire five pages long essay about a girl in his class. Then, to my surprise, the day after I turned in my paper, he asked to talk to me after class. He had my essay on his hands and I freaked out. He told me he had read the whole thing, and that he was impressed. He said he was there for me, and that if I needed anything related to school, I could always ask him for help. He was determined to help me achieve my dream: get into the Washington State University. And you know what? For the first time in a very long time, I felt like someone really believed in me. All that time I had been by myself, trying to get myself through all this darkness around me, but now someone was giving me some light. My english teacher not only believed in me as a person, he believed in me as a writer. By every essay we had to write, he’d always be impressed. When he read my paper on Hamlet he said it was the best he had ever read, and he couldn’t believe it had been written by someone whose first language wasn’t english. He even wrote me a letter of recommendation for my University application, where he wrote I was the best student he had encounter in ten years of teaching. I don’t think he ever knew how big of an impact he had on me, on my life. Because of him, I believe in myself now, even when no one else does. Even when my own parents doubt me. Because of him I found my passion and my talent, and now I know I’m good at something and I should work on it to be better. Because of him I know I’m capable of doing anything I put my mind to, as long as I don’t stop believing. I think every seventeen year old should have a teacher in their lives like the one I had back in California. Because people like him make a difference. My life could’ve taken a very dark turn, as I was dealing with eating disorders and depression and anxiety, and for so long I had felt worthless. As if everything I had done up to that moment did not matter.
On November I got a letter from WSU, that I had been admitted. I had many things I had to work on and it was better if I was in Washington for it, so I decided it was time for me to go back. On the last essay I wrote for his class, my english teacher left a note: NEVER STOP WRITING. YOU HAVE A TALENT. And just like that, I made a promise in my mind that I would never give up on writing, no matter where life might take me.
Books had been a big part of my childhood. I grew up reading everything I could find, and that good habit I owe to my dad. Because I read often, I started to get curious and realized I wanted to start creating stories of my own. And so I did. I grew up, not only reading other people’s stories, but also writing my own stories. As I grew up, I also realized that writing was a great way of letting my feelings out; especially since I don’t open up as easily. So my writing had always been there with me; it was like my second skin. And no one had ever read something of mine until that one teacher did. He read something I never expected him to. As usual, I had used my writing to let out everything I was feeling, and in all that vulnerability he found my treasure. A hidden talent. And I’m not saying I’m a perfect writer; I know I have a long way to go. There are many things I still have to learn.
And as you might guess, life didn’t take me to WSU. It took me back to Mexico, to the University of Guadalajara, to study Law. I felt ashamed for a long time. Feeling like a failure. Until I decided my english teacher had the right to know that I wasn’t in my dream school, and that everything he had helped me with had been for nothing. So I wrote him an email and I told him how big of a failure I was. But he wrote back, saying that he could never be disappointed by the decisions I had made. He said that it was time society stopped putting so much pressure on young people and started treating kids like a parent treat their own children. That the only way he could ever be disappointed by his daughters was if they turned out to be bad people. And he ended the email by saying I was a good person, and that he was proud of me.
It’s been five years and I haven’t talked to him nor heard of him again, but every time I feel the urge to write, every time I either grab my pencil or open up my laptop to write a story or a poem or just a thought, I think of who gave me the courage to do it. Who made me realize I was good at it. And who made me promise I would never stop writing.