French Teacher, Receptionist, Dreamer, Yogi, Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

It is wonderful to meet a young woman who is very much in tune with herself and the world. Mariel (“pronounced it’s like Ariel, but with an M”) has a genuine aura of goodness around her. I was blown away with her self-awareness, and recollection of all the teenage angst she suffered through. As a result, her thoughtful and empathetic advice to other women came across in a very therapeutic, astute and all-knowing way. It is also fascinating to read about a next generation of Costa Ricans, taking charge, finding their voice and feeling empowered. Please enjoy the insightful words of our next WOW Woman, Mariel. Thank you for your kind words and your advice to women (which I know many of us need to hear)!

1. Name.

Mariel Granados Druán.

2. Where is your hometown?

I’m from San José, Costa Rica, but not from the city center, I grow up in a small town surrounded by nature with an a really nice view of the city.

3. What is your profession/career/title/self-label/designation?

I’m a French teacher but right now I work as a receptionist in hostels and hotels around Costa Rica, I really enjoy working in tourism.

4. What was the journey like to get where you are (in life and career-wise)? What are some accomplishments you’re most proud of, and what was the turning point to set you on a current path in life?

When I graduated from the University I had no idea what to do in life, I was really confused. I wanted to be a psychologist because I love to understand how my mind and other people’s minds work, also because I think I’m really empathetic and can easily understand others realities and give good advice. But some people around me told me (and also a part of me knew it) that I’m too sensitive to carry other people’s problems and at that time that would probably would have made me feel sick.

I was accepted to one of the best universities of Costa Rica, the UCR, but I didn’t know what to study, so I thought that learning a new language would be a good idea and the only option besides English (which I already knew a little bit) was to study French in order to become a translator and a teacher. Although the idea of becoming a teacher wasn’t my favorite, I learned a lot about what I disagree with, in our society. I understood it better and stopped just being upset or sad about the injustices. I learned that it is natural to feel sad and angry about everything bad that happens in the world if you are a sensitive person but the next step is to look for a way to change it. I still think that the education is the best way to do it and make that change, but right now I don’t feel a pull to work as a teacher (at least as a French teacher). I feel that my soul needs to travel, to live other kinds of experiences and to find out a lot more about myself and my concept of freedom.

When it comes to personal freedom, that’s where the languages play an important role in my opinion. Two years ago I had the great opportunity to work in Marseilles, France, as a Spanish assistant in high school and that made me grow up a lot. First of all that was the first time that I moved from my parent’s house, and then just the fact that I was going to live in this amazing place was already too big compared to everything I had ever dreamed about.

I travelled around Europe with friends and I filled my heart with so many great experiences. Good and bad things happened, but what rests in my mind is only the idea to come back and travel even more because the freedom that I felt when I was traveling I haven’t found it in anything else. When I was travelling in Europe, I discovered that I love to work in tourism. It makes me really happy to be in touch with other cultures, learn about other people’s realities and to share my culture as well. It is really exciting for me to be able to speak three languages and to know that I can go for more!

When I was traveling, the people I met were definitely an important ingredient, and I love to be that ingredient to those travelling in my beautiful country. When people travel they seem to open their minds and it’s beautiful what you can share with each other.

That’s why when I came back from Europe I looked for work in a Hostel in San José while I finished my studies and it was amazing: I meet people with incredible stories. We shared different ways of thinking as I showed them my city in my free time (not the tourist parts but local) and as a result we created beautiful friendships. What I really wanted to try next was to live by the beach, so when I finished my studies, some friends and I came to a small town called Santa Teresa (in Puntarenas Province of Costa Rica) and the experience has been great. It was hard in the beginning because here we don’t have the same amenities, but what we lack there we make up in more freedom for sure. The weather is great, people and dogs (specially dogs) are happier, sunsets are amazing and don’t even get me started about the amazing nature!

That’s one part of the story. The other one would be that since I was a kid I love to act and to dance. I was in a a lot of academies and groups of different kinds, but I stopped doing it because all the pressure of the last year of high school and the first years in the university made my health decline. I heard about yoga so I looked for a place to do it with my brother and some friends and we found an amazing teacher.

In the beginning it was really hard for me because I wasn't feeling OK with my body or my flexibility. Slowly through practice I started to break all those ideas of myself and began to fall in love with myself. Yoga became a lifestyle and that, mixed with really hard times with my health and a crazy and really confused time as a teenager, made me look for a healthy way to eat and “to be” with my emotions.

I became more healthy, stopped going out that much, I also stopped eating a lot of things because of a Ayurveda diet I did, and I started meeting a lot of people that made me understand the connection that exists between my physical well being, my emotions, my past and my spiritual life. It’s a never ending and is a deep process but right now I just enjoy it, and everyday I feel really thankful to be in it.

life gave me the beautiful opportunity to discover and learn how to love myself, and probably all together will make me a good teacher at some point in the future, yoga teacher or even a new kind of teacher that helps kids and teenagers to get deeply in touch with themselves,

..or who knows, maybe I will keep working in tourism and traveling around the world or using my ability to communicate helping people in new ways.

5. What did you study in school?

French Teaching Bachelor’s Degree.

6. How is your life different from what you pictured at 20?

That was six years ago and there are plenty of things I know I dreamed of accomplishing and did, some probably not as I expected, and others I had no idea were going to happen, but I dealt with them. I honestly don’t remember and I don’t really care, everything is changing and that’s the important thing.

For example, I always dreamed about living in Europe, having a relationship with someone from another country, getting it touch and working with people from different countries, to live on the beach, to find my way because I was feeling really lost and confused. Also I dreamed of being more aware of myself and of healing myself physically and emotionally. Yeah, all that happened, but what is different is how, when and where it happened.

That makes me understand that I can dream and work on my dreams but I can’t expect for everything to happen exactly as I want, that’s not even possible, I have to let life surprise me.

Also, at that time I was in a beautiful relationship with someone great and I was sure we were going to end up together but it didn’t happen, although he is still a person that I appreciate a lot. Overall, I learned so much from that relationship and others I’ve had since.

7. Was there a time when life knocked you down or out and how did you get back up on your feet?

My time as a teenager was really hard. As I said before, when I was a teenager I had issues with my health, but also I was emotionally unstable and was really hard for me to enjoy my life. Actually, it all started when I was a kid, because I used to have bad headaches and some allergies. In general I was always a good kid, a little bit more sensitive than usual but nothing to worry about, but also I had a bad trauma with a scary video that made me go to the psychologist. I grew up really scared of life, for a long time I couldn’t sleep alone and became very dependent on my mother.

Later, as a teenager I felt that I wanted to do crazy things, break the “scared girl” image and become independent and rebellious. I started going out with a group of guys that weren’t probably my parent’s favorites choice and somehow I developed double personality: the “good girl” in my house and in school, but then I tried to be crazy and wild with my “friends” not in a healthy way and lie to my parents a lot because I felt that they didn’t understand me (as every teenager thinks).

Also, I had to take birth control pills because I had ovarian cysts, and at some point the mix between the pills, the parties, all the lies to my parents, and all the bad feelings I was having, manifested in really bad stomach diseases, strong headaches, pain in my arms, in my jaw, in my back and bad allergies. I went to the doctor and he obviously just gave me more pills, but it wasn’t getting any better. So, my mother and I decided to try something more natural and we met a really good women who started my healing process with Bach flower remedies and acupuncture, also she asked me a lot of questions about my past since the moment I was conceived, also about my biggest fears and the things I was upset about in life, but after that I have worked on myself. The process hasn't been easy, I did a lot of different therapies and meditation and I think it all worked on different levels, and I learn to do some myself like reflexology, acupuncture and reiki and I hope to learn many more. 

Now I understand what it means when people says that the strongest people are those that get in touch with their deepest emotions and fears and confront their demons.

8. Advice for other women?

Love yourself, work on it. First of all find what it means for you to love yourself. What it means to me is to feel happy under my skin, to look myself in the mirror and be able to smile and to like what I see, to know that there are strengths and weakness and to embrace them. To be able to say yes or no when you really want or don’t want to do something. Be at peace with it. Enjoy yourself, know how to be alone and doing something you love to do.

Comparing yourself with others women’s path or beauty, that’s the worst thing you can do to yourself. We are NOT in a competition, that’s something people created to sell more “beauty” products, you can be inspired by other women but that’s different from feeling bad about your life. Instead try to support other women in their quest to love themselves, to follow their dreams and to be free, and don’t speak ill of other women behind their backs, we are in this together.

Yes, you won’t look like all those girls in the TV or in the magazines, because that’s not real. What is real and beautiful are all the “imperfections” you have, and once you accept that you will find peace. If you don’t know how to do it I can tell you what worked for me: I made a decision to one day look at myself in the mirror (because at some point of my life I wasn’t even able to do that), and look into my eyes and say “wow, you are beautiful… You have beautiful…” and I started making a list of everything I like about myself, not only physically but also emotionally, all I know that makes me unique. Every day, every chance I could. And that message little by little came into my subconscious and I started to believe it. In the beginning was REALLY hard, I felt physically uncomfortable, I used to cry a lot. Instead of looking to others for those words of comfort, I did it myself.

Finally, it’s really important that you find something that you really love. For example, for me it was to do yoga and to paint mandalas. Yoga allows me to find myself in every movement, in every stretch, in every breath. Mandalas are great because they let me explore my creativity. I didn’t know I was a creative person until I started doing this.

9. Knowing what we know now in current political climate, can women be "all that we can be" in today's world? What is the way forward, as you see it, for "feminist values"?

If I contextualize that question to Costa Rica, I’ll say that it’s clear that a lot of men and even women still think that we are weaker and less intelligent. Probably a lot of people won’t say it like this, but you can feel it and see it for example in job inequalities or in the street harassment.

For me the answer is in the education. We reproduce those sick thoughts and behaviors as something natural because we grow up thinking that’s normal, but I know that if we make little kids have a clear idea of equality and respect, we won’t even have to fight for our rights because there won’t be a war to wage.

However, right now we have to keep fighting or better yet, make people conscious of how irrational this all is. We can use social media as a way to respectfully communicate the new message. I say respectfully because if we attack, we will be stooping down to their level, they will not understand the underlying message and worse, they will counter-attack.

10. Where in the world do you feel “tallest” (i.e. where is your happy place)?

II like to travel to places with different culture than mine. But if I was to choose a moment it’s definitely when I’m dancing. I like to do it when I’m alone but also I like to go out. In parties, concerts or festivals people usually come to me and thank me or tell me something about it, I just need to close my eyes and feel the music through every part of my body.

It feels amazing when I’m having a good and deep conversation. It can be with friends or family but also with strangers. I love to talk with people from other places around the world so I can understand other realities.

Finally I feel tallest when I help someone. I love to use my multi-lingual skills to help, for example at work or on the street.

11. What extra-curricular activities/hobbies are you most proud of? Why?

I love acro yoga and dance, as we call it here, with an hula hoop. I love to do both because I love to play.

I think that as adults we forget to play because we think that we will look stupid but it’s actually an important part of life, if we do it consciously it make us take life with pleasure and don’t become so rigid and stressed.

Also with both I keep discovering myself, and understanding that I can go even farther that I think and that definitely help me to love myself.

12. What do you want to be when you grow up? Future goals/challenges?

I would love to do so many things that I don’t know if I will time in this life.

I want to become and official yoga teacher, I want to learn how to do different kind of natural and alternative medicine and to help people (mostly teenagers and children) with their healing process, be like a guide or a mentor, giving them the tools to really know themselves and from there to heal.

I want to travel more, work in different permaculture projects that connect tourism with the protection of nature. I can learn how to do it and at some point have my own project with healthy food, yoga, natural therapies, dance, music, nature, education, meditation, all in balance with nature. The challenge here is to make it for everyone, not only wealthy people as it usually is at least here in Costa Rica.

I would also like to write a blog or a book to help teenagers and their parents with everything I wrote above.

13. What fears are you still hoping to overcome?

There are still so many. For example, I fear getting sick, being robbed, of making a decision because I can calculate everything. I feel I still put a lot of importance on what other people think of me and I feel that it doesn’t allow me to shine as bright as I could.

I have many fears about the future and uncertainty, but I’m really working on letting go of the need to control something that doesn’t exist yet.

14. Anything you'd do differently, if you had another go at life?

Take more dance (every kind) and acting classes, and start doing yoga at a younger age.

15. What inspires you?

Become a better person, really love myself and find my freedom, so I can share it and help others.

16. What are you hopeful about?

About all the social movements around the world: women equality and protection of the environment.

17. What are some ingredients to a good life?

Self-esteem. Being in touch with nature. Having great communication with the people around you. Finding what really inspires you. And love, love, love.

18. What advice would you give your 14-year-old self?

I think that I have to make a list:

  • Start doing yoga right now and don’t quit your dancing or acting classes for a boyfriend. If you don’t have money, look for tutorials on YouTube or look for another place to do it.

  • Start using the cup right now for your period! Don’t be scared, you will love it more than anything in the world.

  • Stay away from people who don’t appreciate you for who you are, who make you feel bad about yourself or who force you to do things you don’t want. That’s not real and you deserve better. It’s better to have two real friends, than having a lot of fake ones.

  • Try not to care about other people’s opinion, they don’t know you at all and don’t have the right to judge you or define you. Similarly you don’t have the right to talk bad about anyone because you don’t know their history.

  • This too shall pass. Observe your emotions and keep in mind that everything is constantly changing, including your emotions and the situations around you.

  • Try to learn something about every situation, good or bad. The bad situations are there to teach you something and until you learned it. Embrace it and be thankful for what you are learning.

  • Stop wanting to know all the answers right now. Experiences will come to you when the time is right. Stop trying to experience everything now. The most relaxed and present you are with what you are doing, the faster life will show you the way.

  • Look for a psychologist and work on all the anger you have against your parents. They love you and they are trying to do their best. They want to know you but they just don’t know how to go about it. Try to talk to them and tell them that you are not happy and explain why.

  • Listen and trust your intuition. Observe how is it different from your fears. Little by little you will understand the difference.

  • Finally, start working on loving yourself, you are beautiful and don’t need other people to tell you this all the time. Look at yourself in the mirror and make lists of everything you like about you. Believe it.

19. What are you reading now? (what books do you gift most and what are your favourite reads?)

Right now I’m not reading anything, maybe because I just moved to the beach and I haven’t found a moment to do it. I have The Power of Now next to my bed and I want to read it for the third time because it changed my life. I also have “L’enseignement du Bouddha” (Buddha's teaching). These are the books that I like: those that awaken something in my inner being and make me grow as a human being.

I also like adventure novels by Jules Verne for example, historical novels like The Diary of Anne Frank and those that explain things about health, nutrition, massage or yoga. I would also love to start reading feminist literature.

20. Who is a WOW Woman in your world who inspires you and why? Can you nominate three (or more) women you know who perfectly fit WOW WOMAN description? What would you tell them if you had an opportunity, of why you admire them?

I would definitely have to say my mother. She’s my inspiration as she is trying to find herself while making strong decisions to be free and happy. Also she is an intelligent, sensitive, intuitive, strong, open minded and lovely woman.

I also admire my two brothers’ girlfriends. They are both amazing and I feel really lucky that I have them in my life. I have no words to describe them and everything they do. One of them is a psychologist and she mixes her therapy with alternative medicine and yoga nidra. She has a big heart and loves to help people. My other “sister”, is a special education teacher. She is really strong even if small, but that’s also because her personality is really strong. She is very positive and makes me see how you can make your life easier just by changing your way of perceiving the world.

I love all my aunts, but my mother’s sister is definitely a WOW Woman. She fights for women’s rights here in Costa Rica, and it’s really amazing all the work she does.

There are so many others around me, all my friends, they are very inspiring for me, so full of love, courage and power. I could write about them for hours.

All my yoga teachers and healers, and all those women that are deeply connected to themselves and are able to share their energy through a hug, smile or by talking to others with humility and love.

Feminists and social activists here in Costa Rica, but also in Spain, and Argentina, who are working on promoting women rights. Women that are fighting for something good with all their heart and might.

21. Where can others find you/your work (links to websites, blogs, etc.)?

Right now I only have my facebook page: Mariel Granados Durán and my Instagram: @mariel_canelaymiel, but I would love to have a blog in the near future.