How being a terrible student turned me in a writer.

How being a terrible student made me hold on to my dreams and being true to myself.

First let me say, I was a horrible student. Not my entire life, only after my parents broke up and my mom turned my world upside down when we moved to Rio. I was a good student when I was a child, even though my mom was called at school multiple times.

I constantly interrupting the teacher, in the middle of her lecture, to talk about what I’ve watched on tv in the morning. Usually, it was about a huge talking dog or a lady who used to dress in suspicious outfits and talk with a childish voice, Xuxa.

I was that kid fighting for attention

After a turbulent time, of pre-teen years and looking like I was just rescued from a mason jar, like a goblin, everything looked uninteresting and sad. I was never up to my mom’s expectations with anything, neither I felt like I was being heard or seen. My mom used to work too much to support us and I felt alone, most of the time.

I couldn’t keep up my grades and my school didn’t have the leverage it needed to have what it takes to be considered a good school. It was an ok school. Public Schools in Brazil have the worst possible kind of education. It’s like distance learning but without the teachers.

The creative 100 MHP mind in a boring school. I decided to turn my attention to something that entertained me, gave me hope, and made me feel like I was good at something. I got a notebook and started writing some fanfics. I world built my characters, my storylines, and plot. I couldn’t wait to get home from school to write some more. I shared with some of my closest friends and we talked about the stories. I was so into that, that I forgot I had to pass my classes. I didn’t. I failed my sophomore year in High School.

Failing was my signature move

Of course, after that happened, my mom thought I was doomed forever. She was mad as hell and I guess that the only time she paid attention to me. Not that she didn’t before, but this time I had her undivided attention.

The year was 2002 and had just got back from visiting my dad, who was living in a different state at that time. I was happy and cheerful, my mom couldn’t even smile at me. I didn’t care much because she was cold most of the time anyway, again too tired to care.

The next morning of my arrival at home, while we were seating at the table for breakfast, she remained serious and with a poker face. I asked her if she got my results from school, she said my friend had called to inform the grades. “You failed, Joana. In 6 different subjects.”

Not only I got held back, I had failed majorly. My world collapsed. It was my first real-life failure, something I caused to myself, and not only because I was a bad teenager, having fun, drinking, or partying.

I wish. I failed because I was giving too much attention to what I loved doing, instead of working on stuff I hated. I guess I was always true to myself when it comes to that. I only decided to be true to myself when I still had school to be completed.

Now, ask for the Backstreet boys to take the test for you.

Seeing all my friends moving forward to their senior year, while I had to stuck with the other held back losers was a nightmare. I just wanted to write and let life take its course. I just wanted to keep watching MTV and Gilmore Girls instead of attending school. I used to runaway every chance I got. I was so mad that I put my stories aside and got my first job. If I’m going to be a sore loser, might as well get a job at a movie theater.

My passion for writing and creating was put aside for years. I associated my writing with failure, because as my mom used to say at that time, how could I spend my time watching tv shows, reading books and magazines, instead of studying to have a good life? I still ask myself what is the definition of a “good life”.

Where the hell is Joana?

Many years later and after multiple failures in life, I decided it was time for me to go back to my writing. I enjoyed blogging and telling my stories while I was on my internships abroad, even though I had barely any audience, I created “Where the hell is Joana?” in 2007 and kept it until 2010.

Since I kept coming back to my boring life in Brazil, I couldn’t keep up, with the same stories over and over. In 2016, I created a website called “Waitress in Wonderland”, where I wanted to talk about my life experience as a waitress while living in the United States, also, helping people who wanted to study abroad. It didn’t work again.

I keep trying. And when I feel like a failure, I go back to that day when I received the news that I flunk school because even at a young age, I will rather be true to myself than live a boring life. So yeah, I accept being a failure, as long as I keep trying for what makes me happy.

It takes courage, my friends.

Learning how to put everything into words and sharing your ideas takes a lot of courage. Pursue what you love takes a lot of courage. Doing all that in a country you were not born in, you choose to live in, takes even more courage. Writing in a second language? I’m not going to even start it.

So here is my advice my friends, don’t hold on to that moment you failed. Remember how you got out of that feeling and pushed forward. If I had listened to how much of a bad student I was at that time, and believed it, I guarantee I would still be feeling sorry for myself in the same downward spiral my entire life.

Last but not least, here is a note I would like my math teacher back in Brazil to read:

“Dear Mrs Rachel,

I made it alright in life. I never used that complicated math you attempted to teach me, not even once. Thanks for the great psychology you used on me, right before my last test saying I was about to fail again. Barely did I know that I was going to meet at least a thousand low class, ratchet people like you, throughout life. I made it alright so far”

Sincerely,

I only fail because you are a horrible teacher, Joana”

After turning 30 and all the years of battling with my insecurities, I finally embraced my dream of writing and creating the life I wanted. I still need loads of therapy, but we can talk about this in a different post!

It’s Ok to be random.

Hear me out.

I’m 35 years old immigrant and I’m nowhere near to be successful. I have a blog that I commit to writing twice a week, so I can have a sense of progress in my life. I write about the things I like and hope people can enjoy the content. When Covid happened last March, I got stuck, like most of us. So I’m taking my time. Watching a lot of trash tv and questioning my life choices when I log in to websites like LinkedIn. The most “coach-like” social platform that exists. 

There is no way you log in on LinkedIn that you feel good about your life achievements. One time when I was updating my page, I felt broken. All these CEO’s are telling you what you are doing wrong, and how behind you already is. That was the first social media to get the boot from me. 

During the past couple of years, I have been observing a new wave of successful people’s coaches telling you how hard you should work, in what you should work how early you have to wake up to be successful. What they never tell you is: is all that necessary? Will ever achieve this success? It feels like you are a hamster on the wheel, constantly spinning and going nowhere. Hear me out, most of us live this life too. Some are better than others in hiding. 

The Coach Culture

 Coach Culture is a ferocious way to tell you everything you are doing in life, you are doing it wrong, you should do it their way. It’s also related to what I have been experiencing while living here in America. We watch all these reality tv shows, with these rich stars while we are questioning ourselves why can we have the same? Am I not good enough? Will I ever be good enough? Probably not. What these people on tv are not telling you, is that it was probably hard for them too. Or not.

Coach draws stick figures and tell you are bad in drawing.

Maybe they were born into a rich family and are trust-fund kids, maybe they invested the little money they had and got lucky. Maybe they married rich. People will show off, but they won’t tell you the whole story. They show you what they want you to see while making you feel horrible about your life. 

I read a lot of self-help books. I’m crazy about it and it does what it is supposed to do, they help and encourage. It’s a little different than what the team leader coaches do, the ones that are going to make you feel bad because you didn’t get rich or successful before your 30’s.

Where this idea that I supposed to be working while someone has fun comes from? Or Wake up early at dawn and conquer the day while everyone else is sleeping? The coach makes you feel like a loser, to sell you his book about being successful. Buy their book, watch the seminar, buy the seminar with an extra hour for more personal tips, pay more to be able to rewatch it. Tell us about your story. Once again, we are trapped in the wheel going nowhere. 

Social media and the new batch of coaches

Social media is a cauldron of instant famous people for no reason. It’s a niche for the make-believe culture, they sell you an idea, you feel bad about yourself and you buy into it. It works like with politics too, but this is a discussion for another post. I’m from a different generation, as I grew up without being attached to a phone and waiting for strangers’ validation. I’m beyond thankful that I was able to live for the longest time without this slot machine programmed mind games. 

I had this phone years old. Try to coach me with this brick.

I was about 21 when this social media madness started. When I created my Facebook profile in 2006, all we could do to annoy people were poking them, not replying to angry posts against their political views. Now the system can hear you through your phone and immediately try to sell you stuff. As time passed, a new generation of motivational speakers gain force and we, the losers, felt more behind than ever. 

I’m here to tell you, it’s ok to be random. It’s ok not to have any talents and live your life with a different hobby every week. Work, paid your bills, invest if you can on traveling, and your happiness. All that job titles and positions are not gonna mean anything when you are sitting in a chair with old pals or grandchildren trying to tell them your stories. Don’t let these people tell you how you should live your life or what is a success for them. Don’t get suck in by social media instant success people either. 

In the old days…

In all honesty, life was way more fun when there were no social media people to compare to. The only people that we were compared to were the engineer cousin or a neighbor that became a doctor. Now I have millions of people, being beautiful, successful, funny, traveling the world, eating in fantastic restaurants and I’m here, writing about being an immigrant failure and telling people that this ok. You can still live out loud too. Please, don’t judge me for trying to do the best I can, within my possibilities. Let me have joy in what I like working with.  

A different situation I encountered while trying to improve my blog is the number of other bloggers trying to help me out by selling guides on how to make money. Im thankful, but the amount of Pinterest pins I saved on how to make thousands a month by blogging is out of charts. Everything is somehow, turned into a business. The coaches are doing a great job of turning your hobbies into profit. That’s why I don’t think people are happy anymore, everyone is depressed because they have to find a way to be profitable and the easiest way is by branding yourself online. When it doesn’t work the way it should, it’s your fault, and that how you get depressed. 

Too much information, that’s a fact. 

Why I respect bad days

*I have no medical background and this post is about my experiences dealing with my own emotions. If you are feeling under the weather for too long, you should definitely look for help.

In the past years, I learned how to respect my bad days. A long time ago, I used to keep the bad feeling moving for days, even weeks, the sensation of not being good enough or not being capable to start what I had a plan, lingering in my brain. I ended up in a rut many times, only to turn on the tv and call it a day, as I felt guilty and unaccomplished . I still do that, but instead of making it last for a week, now I learn how to live the bad day to the fullest. Instead of fighting it, I embrace it.

I don’t have money for therapy, which in my opinion should be free. We all are in a serious need of healthy state of mind, like someone told me once, its like yoga for the brain, and we need the wires connected to the right colors, otherwise, some of us can live in an edge of power bust anytime. I feel like that sometimes. To be honest, I feel like that at least once a week, and that how I learned how to manage the fire cracks in my brain.

During the months of lockdown, many of us were left to our loneliness, glued to our phones, watching TikTok on an endless loop, binge drinking, feeling hopeless. In quarantine, I followed some travel pages. It was easy to picture myself in Greece or Norway, where they were coming out of quarantine slowly, well managed and were able to enjoy some of their summers and the beautiful outdoors, without being harassed because of masks. Swimming and eating at nice restaurants. On my bad days, I let it sink that none of that might be possible for us in America anytime soon. Politics got heavily in the way, like quicksand, we can’t get out. All we have left is a dream for better days.

When I’m having a bad day, I go for long walks.

I walk around my apartment complex like I’m on a mission. I play with dogs, I sit around and stare at nothing. I let the brain wander, I manage to think the worst possible case scenarios for my future, being ridiculously overdramatic to the point I can even handle myself. When my husband is at home, I drive him crazy. He also learned how to deal with my bad days. He knows that on a bad day I can be super rude, and it’s not intentional, I love him on his bad days too.

I listen to melodramatic music.

I have a questionable taste in music, for what I know, I’m stuck in the early 2000’s pop. No, I don’t like country. My gem is the pop songs, like Britney Spears and the rest of the pop entourage. When I’m sad, I know exactly what kind of songs I look for, Kelly Clarkson for example. I swear if I’m at a store and “Because of you” starts playing I will breakdown crying. That song destroys me, I’m not going to even say anything about the music video. Same happens with Lucky, by Britney Spears. Poor girl is so lucky, she is a star, but she cry cry cry in the lonely nights. The dad took all her rights to her own money! I would be sad too.

Also #FreeBritney

Don’t try to cover it, live it up.

What most people will tell you is “Don’t be sad, look what you have, you are so lucky and blessed.” Yes, I know all that, still, I have the right to have emotions that are not connected to my blessings. I can still be healthy and feel rejected, out of place, mistreated, and yet live in a palace. It’s not about what you have on the outside, its how you feel right now. During my teenage years, I used to live with my mom and my aunt, her sister. My dad was living his best life somewhere else. My mom and aunt are opposites. So I learned how to manage emotions in a very scrambled way. My mom is very focused, dry ice, straight to the point almost, almost military. My aunt is emotional, dramatic, intense, and soft. How were they raised by the same exact person, I will never know. During my teenage years, I heard my mom saying “Though it up, look forward, don’t be dramatic” on the other side, I had my aunt, falling in and out of love, crying and respecting her sadness. True to be told, I don’t think my mom had time to let emotions take over, as she was too busy, juggling all her responsibilities. I had to find a middle ground and it took me years to mature the idea that it’s ok not to be ok all the time.

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

When my emotions are all over the place, I give myself the right not to write. For the blog or any other outlet, I mean. The blog it’s not a diary. Its a tool that I have to share my opinions and find people who would like to read about different subjects like the journey of pursuing different creative outlets. While it is about starting over, its also about how to live in America and enjoy to the fullest, while not being born and raised in America.

The bad days are here to show us that we are alive and we have bad feelings too. Life its not a Greek Instagram account, with beautiful sceneries, train rides, and people smiling and eating delicious food all the time. Don’t be fooled by this happiness, as most of it is fabricated for sale. It’s ok to be sad today, learn about yourself, and seek help if you feel like it’s not going away. CBD oil is working for me, as I have been noticing it aligns my anxiety. Seek for what could help you. It’s important to know yourself and what is causing the sadness.

Be safe and Stay healthy !

J.G.Snelly

I’m a Libra, my friend.

Last week’s post was a bit sadder than I would like it to be. In all honesty, I live with all that I wrote and I manage my life well. I would not live anywhere else, or change anything except the President and his circus.

On the first of August, I sat down and brainstorm a few possible blog posts for this month. I wrote it on a post-it and stick on my planner. That was the easiest way for me to be organized with my blog posts and not having to come up with something different every week out of my imagination like I have been doing. I wrote four different subjects, one for each week, my only problem so far is that I keep moving the Taylor’s Swift new album post for another week, as I came up with something less neurotic to write. I want to write about Folklore, because the album is dark and intense, not very much Swifty. I pushed again for another week, and me being a Libra, that’s normal. I can’t make up my mind.

I understand if you don’t believe in astrological sign, its fine, but join me while I unveiled all the characteristics I’ve seen in people with the same birth month as me.

1- We are loyal

I’m loyal. If a person does me wrong, they have to make it bad for me to keep them away from me. I’m also a softy and not confrontational, I listen and try to understand. The only problem is when the moon shines on my neck and I become feisty. I don’t accept people mistreating others. Once Libras become a friend, we are friends for life. Unless you did me wrong or tried to be funny when I was suffering. I also have a very good what I call affection memory, I remember things you told me 20 years ago. So, if I’m weird with you, it’s probably because I’m ramming over something you said at some point. I’m loyal to my feelings too.

2 – Libras don’t let things go easily.

We are not revengeful, but we hold our poison on the corner of our mouth, for when the time is right. We accumulate experiences and pile up feelings, to one day become part of our very own show and let it all out at once. I’ve done it many times, especially with my family members, my husband too. He is also a Libra, but he tends to hold things better than I do. I feel like that man will implode any day of so much he holds on.

3- We are very dramatic people.

Exaggeration is the key. Leading everything in life with intensity, either good or bad, we learn a good drama from an early age. When things go bad, we make it sound really bad, we make it sound like there is no way out and we spin out of control for a few hours, until we calm down and find a solution. We are very theatrical. and dramatic.

4- We struggle to make decisions.

Remember what I said about the post-it with the blog arrangements and I’m constantly moving the Taylor Swift post for the next week? That’s what I meant. We can’t make a firm decision at first, Libras will always come up with second or 3rd options, a good example is the Canvas Graphic design website. There are so many options for designing blog posts, cards, Instagram ads, that all I do is to keep choosing new fonts, new colors and it takes me 3 hours to decide. We like this, but we also like that, and that one too, that one would work fine as it is and so on. It’s a constant nightmare. If you ask us a simple question like Muffins or Pancakes for breakfast we bug out like an old computer.

5 – Expectations.

We daydream about a lot of things. Some of us are called planners, some of us are called unstable, I call myself a free spirit. Since my dad was diagnosed with cancer in 2008 and we didn’t know what was going to happen, I decided I was only planning my life up to 6 months at a time. Explains a lot why I can never get a house or plan a trip to Japan, that would consume a lot of time. I also hold high expectations for simple things. For example, a few weeks in the quarantine, I got so excited to go to the grocery store, I almost couldn’t sleep. It looked like I was going to Disney. Walmart is the Disney of the White Trash Society Members. I checked my fridge, I made a list, I made space on the fridge. I made going to the grocery store a huge deal. Maybe because I was bored, or maybe because finally being outside of the house was the most positive thing on my day.

6- We are voyagers!

Yes, I’m quoting Moana. All the Libras I know like to take a chance in a different place, outside their comfort zone. We just pack our bags, throw a dart on the map and leave. No hard feelings. See you on the other side. Besides being attached to our families, we are focus enough to take chances and not always be in the same realm our entire lives.

7- Good listeners.

Everyone I know that it was born at the end of September to end of October is a hell of a good listener. We understand people and we sympathized with other people’s struggles. I care a lot about my friends and on the internet days, it’s hard to read between the lines, because people are easily faking a smile, a new outfit, or bragging about some accomplishment. Check on your friend to make sure it’s all real.

8- Great conversationalists.

I have always been the chatterbox of all the groups I’ve been in. From school, to work, to group projects, to family gatherings, I always have something to say. I also unroll the story I’m telling into 3 or 4 sub different stories, so you better keep up. That’s why I become a writer, it is hard for people to listen to me endlessly, so I share all my thoughts on a paper.

9 – A dark sense of humor.

Libras are creative creatures and we lighten up the room most of the time (when we are not in our dark place of drama). Other times we spill our acid sense of humor and a few times we are misinterpreted and get called out, sometimes we hurt people to their core. Because we love to talk most of our conversations end up in some sort of humongous crazy situation that happened to us at some point and we use that to enhance the story. We are always the Ugly Duckling. The misfit. Most of us also carry a burden inside who are never explained to anyone or talked loudly.

10- We are the creatives!

We sing we dance, we write and we are imaginative people. As a child, I loved telling all kinds of stories, playing endless hours with my Barbie, and creating fun plots. I had about 16 different dolls, meaning I had an entire cast to work with. On a psychology class I had during my writing for the entertainment business, the teacher stated that what you enjoyed playing most in your life could have possibly become your career. Kids who played a lot with Legos, grew up to be architect or engineers, kids who liked to play doctors, grew up to be in something the area of taking care of people. It makes all sense that playing with barbies led me to be passionate about writing scripts.

If you know someone that its a Libra and you recognize any of this traits please let me in the comments! All that I wrote is based on people I know, mostly for entertainment, and of course it varies depending on different aspects.

See you in a couple of days!

J.G.Snelly

What you see is what you get

Not really.

I’m an immigrant, but you probably realized that by now. Every time I say I’m from Brazil, a cloud of stereotypes rain down on me. My country is mainly known for soccer, Carnaval and the Amazon jungle. You assume you know my culture by the only three things that most of us don’t care about, or don’t associate with. The only time I had ever put my foot in a stadium was for a concert, for sure I love Carnaval, but I never travelled to the Amazon, because its expensive, even for us. My question is, do you know who Xuxa, Gretchen or Nazare are? You probably do, from memes around the internet, but you don’t know where they come from. The same type of perception towards other cultures also happen to us, Brazilians.

For instance, if you say Amsterdam, we say weed. If you say Russia, we say vodka. If you say USA, we have a few different ideas. First of all, Disney. Second, New York City (Sex and the City, Friends, Seinfeld, Gossip Girl). Third, burgers and hot dogs. Based on this idea that we create in our minds, or of how America is sold to us, foreigners, is what we expect when we move over here. I have been thinking about this topic for far too long that I made a list of what we see in the movies and tv, that makes no sense or its completely different once you move everything you own to this country.

  Prom

The very first Item of my list is something which always had me intrigued. We don’t have a prom in my country, we are actually lucky if we have a graduation party. In my school, we didn’t even have enough teachers.  My geography teacher got sick on my second year of high school, we never got a replacement, or heard from the teacher ever again. I passed that subject with flying colors. I was jealous of my other friends who were going to private school and got all the rites of passage, I heard that they actually had a graduation party.

The only idea I had of prom is from tv and movies. The first scene on my mind is Laney, from “She is all that” when she finds out it was all a lie “Am I bet? Am I a F*ckin bet?” or “Never Been Kissed” when Josie got egged in front of her house, while waiting to be picked up for prom. Even though it was all real mean, it also looks cool and branded. Almost like you belong in the group. I’m actually glad I didn’t have that in my school, it would have only added to my stress.   By the way, I still don’t understand the corsage.

This scene was the very idea I have ever had of what prom was.

 Small Towns that have an Efficient Transit System.

I blame Gilmore Girls for that one. Rory was always at the Square town, waiting for the bus to go to school, from Stars Hallow to Hartford. In my mind, everywhere here in America had an efficient public transportation system. No. Everyone in America has a car, from a very early age. Especially if you live in the countryside, rural areas. When I turned 16, I got a recharge of my bus pass, not a car. Every time I go to a small town I look to see if there is a bus or a train, when it does, it doesn’t go anywhere; or it has a bunch of psychotic people with loose knives riding on it, like Austin.  

Wrong. They should show her mom dropping her off and she getting a car right on her 16 birthday.

  The medicine Ads on tv.

If you ever watch tv in the mornings, during those morning show commercial breaks, you will see at least 20 different types of medication. I’ve seen commercial for dry eyes, for skin disease, for short legs and earlobe enlargement.  Its outrageous, the capacity of selling stuff for people that don’t actually need. It got me questioning if I have a droopy eyebrow and if there is a medicine for that. Another impressive thing is, how happy the actors are in those ads, even though the side effects look pretty horrible. Some like suicidal thoughts, diarrhea, dizziness, sleep walking and imaginary friends. All that because of dry eyes? I pass.

  Mean Girls and the Captain of the football team Trope.

Do you guys have this in every single school and that’s why it’s portrayed like a trope in all teenage movies? I remember in my school some kids were really mean to me and others, but they didn’t have a trope, they didn’t have to play sports either. We didn’t have the hunk boy or the prettiest girl everyone wants to be friends with, date and take to prom. No one had money to be pretty, it was a public school in Brazil for god’s sake. My trope was the one on from the back, laughing and being silly with my friends, until I was the one who got held back to retake the sophomore year, while my friends moved on. I made new friends anyway. In my country, we love soccer, but we don’t have this competition at school, we don’t care about who succeeds, we like to talk about the ones that didn’t.

  The Go getter mentality

We tend to believe that all you have to do to succeed in America is work hard, with no boundaries, while pushing people out of the way, like Andy, from Devil wears Prada. Then once again, we move here, gasoline running in the veins, full of energy, ready to take off, and we start to get passed by people because of innumerous reasons. Once again, whoever sold us the American dream was wrong. Like the people who used to sell you computers virus protection online, who didn’t protect anything. In some tv shows, there is always someone struggling, try to make ends meet and working 3 jobs to support the family, like the dad, played by Terrel Crews in “Everybody hates Chris”. There are characters that Hussle, work like a mad house, to the point he succeeds and get the white fenced house, or the Penthouse with the Central Park view. They just don’t tell you what cost of all this work.  

 For us, life in America is lived like in a sitcom “Reba was recorded in front of a live audience” type of life, so when we get here, we can’t find anything that was sold to us. Politics are a mess, there is an inexistent universal health system, student loans and some people really don’t like immigrants and are not afraid to tell you, pretty much in your face.

That’s all I have to say for this week. Actually I have been working like crazy on a Spec Script and a Comedy Pilot, for eventually get an agent, so I can try to be a tv writer.

Be safe out there!

J.G. Snelly

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