My fears are stopping me

Por Axel Nuñez

I am in 6th grade studying in the state of Mexico where they teach us English as a second language. To give you context of how I learn English in Mexico:

Mr. Alejandro tells the class using his commanding voice, “Now, after me. Repeat this  -Hello. How are you?”

 “HELLOOW HAAAW ARE YOO?” the whole class shouts with enthusiasm. 

We repeat this every day, switching between phrases until we reach a decent pronunciation. My friends and I would walk out of the classroom very optimistic, knowing a new phrase, and its correct pronunciation. Mr. Alejandro’s class charges my battery of confidence, but the moment I’m out of the classroom. Boom! The battery drops to 0% in less than a second. 

Today is the last day of school, and we are sharing what we are going to do this winter break. I’m sitting in a blue chair next to my friend Andrea, as we watch and listen to Derek finish sharing. Now, it’s my turn to share. I feel everyone’s eyes upon me creating a snowball of pressure because I’m the last one that needs to share. Andrea’s smooth brown eyes look at me, as she waves with her hand to calm my nervous soul. 

“My mom, brother, and I are going to New York and Charlotte to visit family and…” 

As I’m speaking, my English teacher interrupts and says, “Hey, I hope you use everything you learned in my class. Let me know how your winter break went.”

My world stops for a second, and my eyes turn faster than a bolt of lightning towards Mr. Alejandro. 

“Of course, Mr. Alejandro,” I respond confusingly. 

In my mind, I’m thinking: “I’m not sure if the OPEN THE WINDOW phrase will help this winter, Mr. Alejandro.” In America, people don’t tend to say “OPEN THE WINDOW” because they have A/C, which is a million times better. Also, it’s winter, and no one will ever ask me to let the snow in their house.

I finished sharing and the snowball vanished, so my body doesn’t feel the weight of the enormous pressure anymore. Now we are going to the auditorium for information night. We always have information night on the last day of school. This means that all parents are meeting with the school administrators to share our report cards and information about the next semester.

The school principal opens with the school’s mission and purpose. I am sitting in the front row next to my mom as we listen to the principal say: “When your kids graduate from middle school, they will be proficient in the English language and be able to communicate very easily.”

My mom looks astonished as if she had just heard, “Congratulations you’ve won the lottery.” I understand her reaction but she can’t sense the truth. The principal’s sharp words made of knives blinded my mom from the truth and they hurt me as I burst of anger inside. 

 If you learn English in Mexico, your chances of getting a high-paying job skyrocket. This is a good way to engage with the parents and give them the motivation to keep paying for this private institution. Parents want the best for the kids, and I don’t blame them, but sometimes they become easy targets.

My principal takes advantage of this situation to make his profit. As if his students and I were products. This makes me upset because he is lying to our parents, but it is the reality we face. People want to be rich, rather than change the world.

I am excited and nervous to visit Charlotte this winter, but my battery needs to get recharged before I leave. I may know the basics of the English language, probably even more. Yet, when I speak with a fluent person, my confidence drops to the floor, as my hopes reach the ceiling. I hope no one talks to me or asks for something because I am too scared to respond back.

I find that there is a problem at my school when it comes to teaching English. It is not the teachers, because they do an excellent job. It is a lack of practice and confidence. I know how to read English, how to construct sentences and implement basic grammar, but I never have the opportunity to apply these skills in a real-life situation. How am I supposed to be fluent when I don’t have a chance to practice?

To learn a new language I need to immerse myself in it. I have to lose this fear that is consuming my time and draining my energy.

The information night is over, and my mom and I are going back home. The moon looks bright as the sun, and the cold air is refreshing us as we are walking out of the building. My skin senses the thick cold air as it cools off my anger.  In my head, I’m thinking, I want to learn English and speak fluently, but I don’t have anyone to practice with.

My mom cheerfully hugs me and tells me, “I’m proud of you, keep doing good in your academics.”

 I can feel the warmth of her, rising all over my body as her lovely arms wrap my waist, “This wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for you mom. I love you.” I say mumbling. 

We get in the car and I start playing the radio to listen to our favorite station, “Radio Disney.”

 “Ride,” a song by Twenty One Pilots, starts playing. 

 “What are they saying?” my mom asks.

 “I don’t know,” I respond confusingly.

 My mom says, “You’re supposed to know this. You take English classes.”

Don’t you? She asks. 

There is a silence between us that feels eternal, and I turn my head towards her.

 “You know the older you get, the harder it will be for you to learn English. Fear is stopping you from pursuing your goals. I’ve seen it,” my mom replies.

 “Can I go live with my aunt and uncle in Charlotte?” I ask jokingly.

 My mom blinks out of surprise by the random question, stops the car, and says, “You could, but I need to talk to your aunt first.” 

At that moment everything clicked, as my mom placed the missing piece of the puzzle. I realize that I have the opportunity to study in another country, but everything depends on me, and if I want to take the risk. I don’t even think I will be able to survive a month without my mom because my fears are still greater than my hopes. Pressure starts building up, and the snowball is weighing on top of me once more. Yet, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that could shape my future.

We arrive home and I feel exhausted, ready to close my eyes for the next eight hours, and so does my mom. I hug my mom once more as if it is the last time I will feel her arms squeezing me, while it fills my heart with love.

 “Good night.  I love you,” I say with a tired voice. 

 She responds, “I love you too. Remember that failing is an option, regret is an eternal question. You choose. Good night.”

Nota por la edición:

Este texto se ha dejado en su versión original en inglés a propósito a prueba de que Axel ha logrado practicar su inglés.

Para todos los papás que un día desearon que sus hijos lograran hablar inglés. En especial para la mamá de Axel.

Soy Axel Nunez, nací en Queens, NY pero criado en el Estado de México, México. Viví en México los primeros trece años de mi vida junto con  mi mamá y mis hermanos.  En el 2017 decidí venir a los Estados Unidos para aprender Inglés y luchar por mi sueño de algún día ser un ingeniero aeroespacial. Esta aventura ha sido un gran reto llena de sacrificios para mí y mi familia pero estoy muy agradecido por las oportunidades que la vida me ha presentado. Actualmente estoy viviendo en Charlotte, NC donde estoy cursando mi último año de High School en el Charlotte Engineering Early College. En mi tiempo libre disfruto hacer ejercicio, escuchar música, servicio comunitario, y escribir poemas. Espero algún día ser una fuente de inspiración para la comunidad latinx. Es por eso que empecé un nuevo proyecto llamado Build-Esperanza para apoyar a jóvenes latinxs quienes buscan continuar su educación superior. Muchas gracias a VozEs por permitirnos fortalecer nuestra voz y darnos la oportunidad de contar nuestras historias.

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