Have you ever felt like a failure? I have!

Believe me, this title is not click bait.

Bubble Gum Girl, 1984. Photo Joseph Szabo, courtesy Gitterman Gallery.

About three weeks ago I published an article talking about the first video I made for the “Verona Inc.” project. If you are curious, you can check this article out here. But if you’re not in the mood, I’ll give you a brief summary: basically, I created a fake makeup brand to which I planned six different TV commercials, from six different decades, and through this commercials I’d learn how to use After Affects.

Puff! That was a lot!

But now that you are familiar with what’s been going on, we can commence with the actual article.

Part I

This week’s video was inspiraded by the 60s and 70s, both decades that I enjoy and have no trouble relating too. Unlike the previous video, where I could not get myself to empathize with the decade, this time it felt right at home. Both eras feel so fun and light, yet not condencending with injustice!

Verona’s Summer Revolution Collection advert.

The researching and writing process was no hustle. I enjoyed watching the silly TV commercials and looking for the most color packed adverts ever made in history. In short, I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to make… and that was my down fall.

As I said, I had a clear idea of what I wanted, but in order to achive this idea I had to learn how to use After Effects. And I mean proparly use, not just throw some random presets and call it the day.

And look, do not get me wrong, I love learning new things! Otherwise I wouldn’t have proposed myself to do this insane “Verona Inc.” thing . However, I have a little secret about my learning journey to tell you.

Part II

Before I go any futher, making quotes and spilling some facts, I have to make a disclaimer: I am not a specialist, psychologist or a neuroscientist. I am not, in any shape or form, a good source of information about some of the data I will be talking about today. I’m merely a writer trying to make sense of herself!

If you become interested about any of the topics I talk about in here, I’ll leave the books I used as research at the end, so you can learn more by yourself! Also, if you identify with any of the characteristics I will use to descrie myself later on, I recommed you look for a psychologist or any kind of professional assistence. It helped me alot, it might help you too!

Anyway, I’ll stop rambling.

So, for a very long time I was a mediocre learner. You might be thinking: “What does this even mean?”. No problem, I’ll explain.

Young girl in class room on the 1960's

A good example was my performance in school. Since I can remember, I was barely passing my classes. There were some exceptions, like literature, but even in grammar and essay writing (don’t even get me stared with physics and math) I would latch onto any tenth of a grade, just so I wouldn’t have to repeat that subject.

I remember one time when the principal called me and some other kids to her office — and I was sure she was about to say I had failed again — and broke the news that we had passed that grade. I was in shock. That never happaned!

For a long time that was how I worked, and it wasn’t like I wasn’t trying to change. I remember spending hours in my room, trying to finish an activite for school and bursting into tears when I wasn’t able to do it. And this pattern goes all the way back! Some time ago my therapist showed me an activit we had mad almost a decade ago (yep, I go to the same therapist since I was a child! Cool, right?) and — even as little kid — I was frustraded and angry with the fact that I could not for the life of me finish my homework in time.

All of these anectodes help paint a picture of what I was like, but what really struck me were the words I remember using to describe myself throughout this events. Even as a little kid, this what I was saying about myself: that I am stupid and a failure.

Part III

In order for you to understand what I’ll talk about later, it is important to know what learning really is. Depending to who you talk to, you’ll get different definitions of what it is and how the learning process happens. But broadly speaking “(…) learning is considered as a process through which the individual acquires information, knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, in order to progressively and endlessly build their representations of the internal (what belongs to them) and the external (what is “ outside” them) in a constant biopsychosocial interrelation with their environment and fundamentally in childhood, through the help provided by others. (Díaz, 2011, p.83).

Basically, what I gather is that: to learn something you must be able capture and interpret stimulus, but this new information must be of relevance for you your internal experience, otherwise will not be “archived” to your mind.

This is all good and fun, but what happens when you have a learning difficulty? Well, I’ll tell you: I HAPPEN!

Separation Anxiety, 1948. Image George Hughes, courtesey American Gallery

If you are yet to connect the dots, I’ll do it for you: the reason why I was such a mediocre learner was due to my Attention Defict Disorder (ADD). Explaning very harshly, this is a learning difficulty that will mess with your attention and retention abilities. This lack of attention can cause problems with school or even in personal relationships, leading to anxiety or depression[1].

As you can see, this is not a fun thing to have. However, at no point of the diagnosis it is stated that you are stupid or a failure, or even that you are not able to learn! Unfortunatelly, it wasn’t necessary. When I was finally diagnosed (around age 14) the feeling of being a complete waste of space was already logded into my head.

Maybe by this point you’re asking yourself: why I bring all this up? What does any of this have to do with learning After Effects?

I mean, it doesn’t directly, but to me when I was sitting in front of my computer, struggling to acomplish the simplest thing possible on After Effects, that’s what I felt like: a failure, a waste of space. And I have an inkling that alot of other people do too.

Part IV

Hey look, this a safe space. You’re allowed to say if you have ever felt like a pile of garbage before… because I have, many times.

But what I realized as a got older was that, a lot of other people had similar experiences to what I had, and with that came the question: why?

Honestly, I wish the answer was a bit more cool or interesting, but it is actually quite simple: our educacional system is not equipped to deal with any type of divergency from a cookie cuter mind.

It seems obvious to say, but not everyone will fit into the traditional way of learning. So what do I do propose, what can it be improved?

Students arriving at school on the 1970's.

First, schools need to adapt. Easier said than done, but it is an important part of the process and I believe that we, as learners, should engage to help this change happen. Perheabs you can write an open letter to your school council, or just talk to your teachers, I bet they also want to change things up.

But, since all of this changes can take a long time to happen, maybe some more practical advice might be of better use.

Look, I can not tell what will work for you, specifically. However, one thing that really helped me was learning about learning. Let me explain.

There’s this concept called Metacognition that

“(…) refers to knowledge and thought about learning itself. It is proposed that if an individual learner is able to gain insight into their own thought processes and come to understand better the ways in which they learn then they are better equipped as learners and likely to make good progress at times when they might otherwise find learning less straightforward.” (Pritchard, Alan, 2009, p.4).

Essentially, it means that you need to know what kind of learner you are to be better at learning.

For instance, I came to realize I’m a visual, sensing and intuitive learner. Translating to normal lenguage: I need to see what I am doing, I like to have a vison to achive and I need to be allowed to use my imagination to problem solve.

To give a couple of examples. First, let’s look how I went from mediocre (ie “shit”) at school, to receiving two academic merits in college.

The first thing I had to do was to built some discipline. Your mind is probably buzzing the “coaching stuff” alert right now, but trust me, is not what you think. I remember a teacher telling the students they shuld study all night long the week before our SATs, because, and I quote “ while you’re sleeping, somebody else is winning”… Well, screw that!

That is not true discipline, that is despair! True discipline comes from consistency and sustainabilty, and what that teacher proposed was not sustainable. I have ADD for goodness sake! If I want to get the work done, I’d have to accept that I can only focous for 20 minutes at a time and give myself enough time to do what I had to. Again, it sounds overly simple, but guess what? It works!

After all, instead of trying to force myself into the schedule the school wanted me to adhere to — and get frustraded when I couldn’t — I gave myself the permission to just do what felt right. Of course I had dead lines and goals, but if I needed a couple of extra minutes to digress on a thought about how the sky looks extra blue today, that’s what I did.

The second thing I needed was to discover how I better comprehend the subjects. I already told you what kind of learner I am, but let me give an exemple of how this methods of learning work in real life. For me, what seemed to merge all the three ways in which I learn (visual, sensing and intuitive) was storytelling! I kid you not, I would create narratives in my mind where I’d tell the story about the day I learned about a specific subject, or I would research for the story of how a mathematician discovered a certain formula, and this way I was be able to recall it later!

Moodboard for the “Verona’s Summer Revolution Collection” video.

Just look at what I did for the “Verona Inc.” project. Insted of just watching some tutorials on how to use After Effects, I created an imaginary brand and advert campaing, just so I could assossiate certain After Effects features — that are very logical and straight foward- with specific visual and conceptual actions.

Essentially, I created a method in which, instead of just memorizing some boring data, I project information into a story, a moral I have to learn!

Conclusion

In conclusion, if something doesn’t fit you, you don’t need to cut an arm off to fit in it!

In a less gory way of saying it: just don’t force yourself into a routine or a method that is not suited to you. People are different, so why should the way we learn be the same?

I know it can be hard to allow ourselves out of certain boxes, after all we have been told all our lifes that if you step out of that boxe you are not smart, or capable or whatever degrading term you can think of. But, guess what? You don’t have to stay inside!

It doesn’t really metter if you are an auditory, kinaesthetic or perciving learner. Regardless of how, what metters is that you allow yourself to learn. Do not let your insicurities or fears get in the way of you living the experiences you want to, I say this from a personal level. I have allowed myself to not try or pretand I didn’t want something, jut because I believed that I didn’t deserve it or that I wasn’t able to achive the thing I wanted.

But know that that is not true. Just because your mind works different or whatever it is, it doesn’t mean you are not capable. You are. Trust me, I’d know.

Ps: Just to be clear, I love schools. Do not think that this an anti-school shenanigans. I personally believe that attending an educational institution is a privilege we should all thank for, but that does not mean the experience can not be improved upon, correct?

References

Díaz, Félix. O processo de aprendizagem e seus transtornos / Félix Díaz. — Salvador : EDUFBA, 2011. 396 p. il. Access at: https://biblioteca.isced.ac.mz/bitstream/123456789/603/1/O%20processo%20de%20aprendizagem-repositorio2.pdf

CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is ADHD? / Last review: jan. 26 2021. Access at: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html

Pritchard, Alan. Ways of Learning: Learning theories and learning styles in the classroom. 2 Park Square, Milton Park,Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN, 2º ed., 2009. Access at: file:///C:/Users/Livia/Downloads/LEARNWays_of_learning__learning_theories.pdf

23, Bachelor’s Marketing & Advertising/Faesa. Writer & Filmmaker. Instagram: @reimlivia / Vimeo: vimeo.com/liviareim