I still remember that day of May. It was close to noon, and I went to the university registrar as if my business was a simple chore. I asked the lady if my degree was ready, and she nodded. Then she headed to the back and looked through the files. Soon after she came back with a big envelope that contained my new title. More than five years have now passed.

The diploma looked pretty, but at the time it was not something I was proud of. There were many reasons, but at the core was that I had not tried my best, I simply didn’t have it in me: I wasn’t interested enough. Another reason was the sorry state of academic standards in America. I often looked around me, and it did not seem to me that I was among bright people—my teachers were of course top mathematicians, but my fellow students left much to be desired, there was a palpable lack of quality in the student body. That’s what profiteering coupled with silly racial laws will do to ya, American! There was also the fact that although many of the teachers were objective geniuses, many of them did not give a crap about teaching, which only added fuel to the fire of mediocrity.

Just like a chore, I went and retrieved my diploma. I forewent the ceremony, the pictures with friends, the cap and gown, the shaking of hands with some important scholar; I wanted none of it. As time passed, my brewing insanity made me deny not only that I had got my title, but even that I lived in America. And after having abandoned the American hellscape, I would stupidly lie by omission by just saying I studied some mathematics at university, but never specifying where this took place. Actually, this depended on the level of intimacy I had with the person, and on where my mood happened to be. It was more than self-hatred brought about by continuously doing something I was not meant to do; but looking back, my time in America was like a dark cloud. Mostly dark, very little in the way joy and pleasure—a life that could serve as a form of punishment, surely. And it was me causing it, me and no one else! Man can have many enemies, but his own mind can be the toughest one to beat up, wrestle down, and put in its place.

If so far this seems like a senseless ramble, I hope that at the end you will leave with at least some insight. Mental illnesses run rife in my blood, and I feel most fortunate for having averted some of the many blights of the mind through an unlikely display of will, but too many times I have felt that I was too close to becoming insane—it was not easy! What I find interesting is that when I feel good and healthy, I look at what’s positive about every single past experience, even the worst ones. After all, would there be growth without suffering? Is it not a crucial step in becoming stronger?

I think this message is mostly geared to those people who are conflicted in their lives, those who feel like there are things they must fix. My advice is that that you stop and listen closely, because what your heart wants, it doesn’t say feebly: it screams! So, unclog your ears and get to work. It is possible, to turn all your failures into something good.

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