Greetings everyone! I’m back with another controversial post! This one just might be a little bit more controversial than the other ones!
I’m currently in Cuzco, Peru exploring. I’ve wanted to come to Peru for quite some time and finally had the opportunity and here I am. As you all probably know by now, travelling usually inspires me to write more and fills my mind with more ideas and revelations. Peru didn’t disappoint, so here we are with another revelation. This may seem like common sense to a lot of people, but I also think that a few people take it a little bit too literally. What am I talking about? Let me tell you! “You can do anything you set your mind to”. If you’re from North America, you’ve definitely heard this at least once. I remember teachers really hammering this into our heads in elementary school and kindergarten in the hopes that we’d end up getting better marks at school. The intention is good, but the message just isn’t true when taken literally. I know a lot of you will think that I’m just being cynical and pessimistic, but it is honestly true. Let me explain why I feel the way I do, and as always, you are allowed to disagree with me and challenge my beliefs in the comments. I try to never believe that my opinion is objectively the only right one. I look forward to learning from you guys and having my mind changed/broadened. You’re probably very open minded if you’ve read this far. Differing opinions are always welcome here! Anyway, let’s get back into it.
There are some things that we will never be able to do!
There are a lot of things that we simply CAN’T do. If I set my mind to growing wings and then proceed to jump off the C.N tower, I’ll go down in history as the first black polyglot pancake and I imagine that I wouldn’t taste very good… even with the purest of the purest Canadian maple syrups. I’m totally cool with being unable to fly! Thats why airplanes were invented. I don’t actually need to have wings or to jump off the C.N tower. I’m not going to lie, being able to fly would be cool, but I can’t do it and am ok with that. I feel like the problem with the whole “You can do anything you set your mind to” thing is that it sets us up for not only disappointment, but also failure. I feel like it falsely teaches people that if they fail at something, they just didn’t believe in themselves enough. The mind is a very powerful thing and believing in yourself while having faith in your capabilities is important, but there are still some things that we just cannot do and being unable to do things isn’t always the end of the world.
I want to be taller. I always wanted to be 6’5, but unfortunately, puberty is done. Long done, so the chances of me hitting 6’5 are slim to none and it doesn’t matter how much I set my mind to it.
There are some things that we CAN do!
Conversely, there are many things that we CAN in fact do. A lot of the people I grew up with set their minds to doing well in basket ball and making it to the NBA. For many of them, that vision is within reach. They set their minds to it and are making it happen. I failed French immersion, but set my mind to learning it a couple years later and have not only learned French, but 8 other languages. The mind is a powerful thing and I’m not denying that at all here in this post. We are all capable of unimaginable feats when we set our minds to things. There are so many things that we can do when we give things our 100%. Look at famous athletes and other people who have attained great things. They reached their goals because they set their minds to what they were doing and gave it their all.
Wait, wait, wait, you’re confusing me!
Feeling confused? Does it seem like I’m contradicting myself? Let me explain what I’m trying to say here. The trick isn’t do give up when the going gets tough, far from it! The trick is to find the middle ground between believing in and having faith in yourself and understanding that your abilities may sometimes have limits and that, it’s not the end of the world if you set your mind to something and still fall short.
I started learning languages for fun after the “critical period for language acquisition”. That means it will be very very very unlikely for me to learn to speak another language without an accent. Sure, I could probably get close, but it’s scientifically extremely unlikely regardless of how much I set my mind to it. Does that mean that I should drop language learning altogether and just give up because I’ll most likely never lose my foreign accent? No! It means that although it may discourage me, I still need to bust my ass to get as close to my goal as possible while respecting and understanding that my abilities have limits and that there is a chance that I may never reach that point. It’s not the end of the world. Chasing after having a perfect accent and believing that the only reason I wasn’t reaching my goal was do to my lack of belief or faith in myself is a lie that if left unchecked, could theoretically lead to me getting discouraged and wanting to drop learning languages altogether.
Know your strengths and respect your weaknesses.
We all have strengths and weaknesses. The goal is to know your strengths and to use them to your advantage and to respect your weaknesses and to act despite them. I know I have a very strong accent in a lot of the languages I speak, but I still force myself to get out there and practice. I know that my strength tends to be that I’m able to reach a decent level when it comes to listening comprehension pretty quickly. I’ve also noticed that I seem to be pretty good at accumulating a decent amount of passive vocabulary too. These are my strengths and I’m aware of them. My weaknesses, on the other hand are that I really struggle with remembering new ACTIVE vocabulary words when I first start learning a new language and routinely forget tons of random words in all the languages I speak. These are my weaknesses and I respect the fact that I have them. I’ve set my mind to fixing these issues many times, but they’ve persisted. Does this mean that I should give up entirely? No! Does this mean that I’ll never be able to resolve these issues? Nope. I’m not going to allow the fact that these are my weaknesses to prevent me from still trying.
Pallcoyo Rainbow Mountain
I had just gotten back to my hostel after eating out on a warm day. I was tired and didn’t really feel like going back out. I saw a group of people that I knew and went to sit with them. They were discussing going to Machu Picchu and rainbow mountain. I wanted to visit both of these sites, but hadn’t been able to push myself to finally just do it. The one American guy in the group got up and said he was going to go book his tour at the tourist office around the corner and asked if I’d like to join. I thought about it briefly, but was still on the fence. I still needed a bit more convincing for some reason. “You wanna come or not?” He asked. “Alright, I’ll come!” I responded. I guess I didn’t need as much convincing as I’d originally thought. He went out to go book his ticket and I ran back to my dorm room to get some cash, so that I could book mine too. After getting kind of lost, I found the tourist office and booked my ticket too. We’d learned earlier that day that there are two sides to rainbow mountain that are accessible for tourists. The touristy side that everyone visits and another, less touristy side called Pallcoyo. We decided to go to Pallcoyo because it was cheaper more aesthetically pleasing from what a lot of people had said. This was it, there was no backing out now. In less than 24 hours, I’d be 5000 meters above sea level.
I set my alarm for 5:30 A.M… I was happy and mad at the same time, but eventually went to bed.
5:30 came a lot faster than I thought it would and I was jolted out of my dreams and back into reality by my alarm. I hesitantly got ready and prepared my daypack and got ready to go. I made my way down the stairs where I joined the American guy and a few other guys that had also decided to go to this mountain. We waited for the bus together and some ate bread. I wish I’d eaten something too in hindsight, because there would be no proper meal until 3 PM.
The bus ride was scary and there were a couple times where I was certain the bus would fall off the edges of the cliffs that we were driving so close to. Despite all this and after dodging a few random llamas that ran across the road, we made it to Pallcoyo. The bus driver parked and we began our walk. It was HARD. I was already really struggling with breathing and losing my breath in Cuzco and we were now even higher. The tour guide told us to take deep breaths and to walk slowly and that it wasn’t a rush. The first 10 steps had me feeling winded. There was no way, I’d be getting through this. It was just too much. Despite this, I told my inner critic to shut up and set my mind to getting to the top. After tons of photos and embarrassing poses, I got to what seemed like the final stretch. I was so weak and out of breath at this point. My head was also pounding. I set my mind to getting to the top though! I was going to make it to the top and nothing was going to stop me.
I began walking. My Apple Watch claims that I was at about 4900 meters above seas level at this point. I pushed and pushed and got half way and needed to sit down. I couldn’t breathe and was panting aggressively. I felt like I was going to lose consciousness which would NOT have been good because the would mean my limp and unconscious body would be rolling down a mountain. I waited a couple minutes until my heart rate slowed and then tried to keep pushing. I’m pretty sure I got 80-90% of the way, but then I had to give up. It didn’t matter how much I set my mind to it, my body wouldn’t let me go on. I decided to give up and just go back down. A cool view wasn’t worth my life. It didn’t matter how much I set my mind to it, I couldn’t do it. Was I disappointed? Of course! Was it the end of the world? No! My cardio is not the greatest at sea level, so imagine trying to push my body hard at 5000 meters above sea level! I respected my weakness. I could always try again another time after a bit of training. It wasn’t the end of the world and I still had a great time at the site anyway.
There are many things that we CAN do in life and having faith and believing in ourselves will help us attain these things. Conversely, there are also very many other things that we just CAN’T do in life due to physical limitations or other factors. There will be times when faith and setting your mind to tasks won’t be enough. Know your strengths and respect your weaknesses because it’s probably not the end of the world. Despite this, you should still try your best and put your heart and soul into what ever it is that you want to achieve. Always try your best, but also remember that it’s ok to be unable to do things sometimes. We can have a lot in life, but we can’t have EVERYTHING we want and that’s ok. Life would be dull and meaningless if we could magically have every thing at the snap of our fingers. I hope this made sense and didn’t come off as too cynical or pessimistic! I’m not saying that you should give up hope, I’m just saying that you should be realistic.
You got this!