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”


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!

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2 thoughts on “How being a terrible student turned me in a writer.

    1. Thank you! I have so much respect for teachers that love what they do. A teacher can change a student’s life forever, either for good or for bad. I’m glad I pushed forward the bad student stigma.

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