Back into the lion’s den (aka the classroom)

Despite a few fleeting moments of glory and belonging, my student career was a difficult one fraught with worry, despair and a sense of failure.

I often have experiences today that evoke memories of my student days but today I try to figure them out differently as an adult.

For example, right now I’m registered for an Arabic class. There is something very fun and amusing about a group of adults stumbling over a new language, but for much of the time I feel like I’m not getting the material fast enough (relative to most of the others) and as a result I start feeling embarrassed.

I also can’t get myself to study between lessons because it is overwhelming to me and I don’t feel like it’s sinking into my brain anyway. I’ve told myself to just study for 10 minutes a day – at least that’s better than nothing – but I’m too overwhelmed and so I haven’t succeeded in doing it.

At this point I’ve fallen so behind that I didn’t even go to the last couple of lessons – partially because of timing, partially because I’m ashamed to go in so unprepared.

But I keep asking myself, do I really not want to be going to class anymore? The answer is a resounding no! I like the lessons and I want to continue. I am just embarrassed and find it so stressful when the teacher actually expects me to know anything.

And so tonight I decided I’m going to class tomorrow, and in anticipation of it, I wrote an honest note in our WhatsApp group. I wrote:

Dear friends, I wanted to tell you that although it’s difficult for me to study outside of class, I don’t want to stop coming to class! I knew I may not be so successful in this course when I signed up but I signed up anyway because I figure at least the exposure to Arabic once a week will have some affect. In short, I will try to come tomorrow, just please don’t expect too much from me. :)

I know some of you are probably wondering, why all the words? Why all the explaining? Why not “just” show up and be as prepared or unprepared as I am? It isn’t my problem what they think, right?

Well, I’ll tell you why I wrote that note. Because if I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t be able to get myself to go. Falling behind in class is quite a normal thing and yet it is so shameful and stressful when it happens. I’m quite certain I’m not the only one who isn’t keeping up. I’m sure I’m not the only one who stopped/sort of stopped coming to class, and I bet some of them would continue coming if the embarrassment factor was minimized. Basically I decided to try to normalize falling behind, both for myself and for anyone else who might benefit from it. If I put it out on the table, there will be no surprises or false expectations. (Yes, I know their expectations of me shouldn’t matter. Yadda yadda.)

Of course there still remains the question of why I can’t get myself to study. Why do I get paralyzed in this way? But first and foremost I want to not be so embarrassed by it.

I have to admit I’m still a little nervous about going tomorrow, it would be so much easier not to…

But I want to learn Arabic!! And so I’m committed to trying, even if I’m not succeeding very well. And now that I’ve said, “Accept this” about falling behind, I hope I can walk in there happily tomorrow, and enjoy the class for whatever it is for me.

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