How to Make Your Dreams Come True
The problem with hard work is that it’s fundamentally boring to talk about. But I’m going to try.
My teacher wants to see me after class.
I don’t know why. I have absolutely no idea. I’m 12 years old, and I’m not a troublemaker of any sort. I’m far too shy for that.
She scratches her nose as if she’s uncomfortable. It’s hot in the classroom, and I’m uncomfortable too.
“Your results came back from the English exam.”
I remember that we took an exam a few days ago, an international one. It’s supposed to test our ability in English. All the students speak English — we attend an English-medium school in a former British colony, but we have wildly varying levels of proficiency.
She says, as if it were a problem rather than an achievement, “You have a Distinction.”
I look at the certificate she hands me. It says my name right there, on top of a scoring key. I see that Distinction is the highest score.
“You’re the only student in the class that got Distinction. But don’t think this makes you special.”
I am lost, but she continues: “I’ve seen your attitude in class — you’re very arrogant. As arrogant as the devil. I don’t want this to encourage you. You have to learn some humility. You’re not that good.”
There’s a few more words, but I don’t hear them. Finally she dismisses me, and I can sense that she is relieved. I walk out of the room clutching my Distinction certificate in small hot hands. Now I know it doesn’t mean anything.
Where to begin.
We obsess over beginnings. People want a good origin story. They ask this question all the time: When did it begin? They ask this of gay people, of sick people, and of artists. When did you find out? When did it begin? And for me the answer is always “When did what begin? If you mean, when did I start writing, well, I started writing when I was seven years old.”
It’s true. I knew I wanted to write from the time I could write. I stole my parents’ office notebooks and wrote poems in them. I still remember lines from one poem: “The lacy little wavelet/On the brown…