Tagged: on learning

Transfer

Energy, swirling and bubbling, slishing and sloshing, through our bodies. We touch something, which sends a reverberation that radiates outward, to continue its neverending run.

 

Tense energy, swirling, sloshing, through my body. My words touch everyone around me: cold, negative. Eyes and bodies shift, as does something inside me. My inner discomfort has overflowed, and I’ve transferred it to those around me.

Fear, tension, nerves, stress. There’s always something.

Life has showed me that there will always be something. Swirling inside my brain, there will always be some dark shadow that threatens to stands between me and my entourage. I can’t accept that.

I sit down to write. Difficult and uncomfortable at first, it soon feels like I’m scratching a deep internal itch. A soul itch. (Sitch?) The sloshing, watery shadow starts to find equilibrium. Give it some time to flow through my fingertips and transfer onto the screen, in a controlled release of creative energy.

 

A reminder that I shouldn’t stay away for too long.

 

abstract discomfort

abstract discomfort

 

Smug

“Yeah, when I was in New York on business…”

“Those 2 weeks I was in the U.S…”

“The food is terrible… all those hamburgers and hot dogs…”

“American culture?  What culture?”

“There’s not much history there, is there?”

“Ugh, that American accent… I can’t understand a thing!”

“The thing about Americans is…”

 

I mold my teeth back into a stiff-lip chiclet smile.  Heh, heh.  Very amusing.  They look so comfortable, self-assuredly snickering at a caricature of a country they love to shit on.

I observe with fascination the smug joy in their eyes, the derisive wheezy laugh.  All driven by a glaringly misguided, yet gloriously seductive need to be better than.

Why should I rain on their shit-parade?  I wouldn’t dare spoil their moment of naive delight by questioning their pseudo-intellectual, stunningly brash hubris.  There are indeed plenty of things to criticize, sure, but they’re pulling at low-hanging rotten fruit.  The bland revelation is too simple, too deliciously satisfying to resist.

Is this how they go through life?  Satisfied with a facile, self-serving version of reality, with no desire to learn more?

I’m not offended at their (perhaps unintentionally) injurious comments; that would be too easy.  No, I’m learning.  This is a pernicious trap of logic, a hasty generalization.  Such exchanges remind me to work to avoid this pitfall myself.

“Mm-hmm.  Whatever you say.  On to page 2…”

No

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going wherever this pencil takes me

 

Every No is a chance to learn something.  Every closed door, every rejection, every empty inbox.  Every outpouring of effort that fails to make even the tiniest ripple.  Every twinge of disappointment, every shameful time you realize that you don’t measure up.

 

Nos hurt; they make you question what you’re doing and why you do it.  But this is exactly why Nos are also a great impetus for growth.  Why are you doing that?  Is there something to learn here?  Is that No a permanent roadblock?

 

Yes can be too easy.  Yes absolves you from the responsibility of reflection.  Yes tells you what you’re doing right, not what you need to work on.  Yes makes you soft.

 

I’m on a mission to collect Nos.  I have a lot to learn.

Aprende!

“I don’t get it.”

Hands up in the air, head shaking, breath hissing in exasperation, body leaning back as far as humanly possible from the table.  Downturned haddock mouth, brow furrowed, head slouching into a temple massage, fingers tense and aggravated.

It never ceases to amaze me, that this behavior comes from grown-ass adults: parents, doctors, lawyers, accountants, managers, generally functioning members of society.

Sometimes, I stare blankly back in response.  No follow-up question, no attempt at clarification.  I see expectancy and hope looking back at me; these are eyes that just want the answer, dammit!

When I see my adult students react poorly to frustration, I think back to my childhood.  When my father spoke to me in Spanish and I didn’t understand, or when I had a difficult homework assignment, he’d nod his head in exasperation and exclaim:  “Aprende!”  Learn!

If only those were the magic words.  “I don’t get it,” and instantly, you’re exonerated from the responsibility of mental exertion.

In a perfect world, I just give the damn answer, and we can all move on!

In the world of language learning, that just doesn’t cut it.

The moments of frustration, mental blanks, forgetting what we’ve seen dozens of times before… Years of experience have taught me that that is where true language acquisition happens.  Learning to navigate through those difficult moments, to roll with them, not allowing them to completely block us:  these skills differentiate between those who will succeed, and those who will not.

Alleviating a short moment of frustration by giving the easy way out does a disservice to the student.  They are freed from the obligation to try, and thereby cheated out of an opportunity to learn.  I want to echo my dad’s simple, yet timeless nugget of truth:  Aprende!

 

Mortify

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Onstage, seated cross-legged in front of a full audience.  I paint on my most charming smile, and begin speaking into the mic.  In the midst of the first wave of applause, I realize:  my script is missing.  The auditorium hushes, and I’m nervously fluttering through my binders.  I hear spectators growing restless, shifting from one buttcheek to the other in their seats, and I’m feeling panicked.  I look over my shoulder, and am sickened to see that offstage, she’s got my script.  Smiling, her face says, “How you like me now?”
I wake up with the same tight stomach.
§
Mortification is a word that’s followed me closely in my journey through life, like a pathetically faithful three-legged dog with fleas.
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I think back to my first teaching job, and the little black nob protruding from the ceiling in every classroom:  CCTV.
I knew that classes were recorded, for evaluation purposes…  it wasn’t until a couple years in, that I realized everything was being recorded.  Whether there was a class or not, the cameras were rolling.  I instinctively cringe recalling the things I did while on camera.

I broke down crying at my desk before class.

I shook my booty to reggaeton music.

I bit my nails.

I had private telephone conversations.

I did unladylike things.

Those shining moments were captured, in addition to my horrific first forays into teaching:  kids scribbling on the walls, scooting around the classroom, slinging various objects, and stupefied Me in the eye of the pandemonium, pulling my hair out.

I can imagine the wide-eyed bewildered look of whatthef*ck on my supervisors’ faces when they sat down to replay and evaluate my classes.  I imagine they learned much more about me than they bargained for.
Now, looking back on that time, I wonder if there wasn’t a shred of pity in their eyes when they spoke to me.
I shudder, and come zooming back to the Present.  I could chastise myself for ever being that foolish.  But, knowing that Mortification will eventually come back to me, I prefer to laugh at myself.  It may not be pleasant, but it’s there to teach me a lesson.

Judge

Commute to work.

There’s the middle-aged homeless man, always perched somewhere on this commercial street, who I pass nearly every day.  He squints upward at me, and we exchange nods and hellos.  From time to time, I’ve given him my spare change, a bottle of water, some clementines from the market.

Today, I smile my usual hello to him in response to his greeting.  Our daily call-and-response.

I see a young, bearded man, about 25 years old.  I’ve seen him and other chipper young people, wearing a different color vest every couple months, canvassing for clean water, AIDS research, human rights protection… All noble causes that have web sites I can consult for more information.  I’m not looking to receive a lecture from a bright-eyed twenty-something about how I should be using my money.

I smile my hello in response to the perched man’s greeting, then see the young man approaching, in his fluorescent yellow vest, arms open wide and incredulous.  “How about you give him a sandwich instead of your ‘hello’?” he chastises me in French.

I feign ignorance and reply in English: “No thank you sir, have a good day!”

I walk off, brain buzzing in thought.  I wonder why he intervened.  I’m sure he thought he was doing the Right Thing.  He was so sure that he was justified in confronting me.  He decided that I was someone who needed to be put in her place, that I needed a lesson in how to be decent to other people.

In his mind, I’m a cold, uncaring, callous, selfish woman.  Am I?  In my mind, he’s a self-righteous busybody that projects judgment onto others, which saves him from directing it inward.  Is he?

 

We love weaving narratives from dubious scraps of information.

 

It comforts us to find a demonstrable cause-effect, an explanation to justify a conclusion we’ve decided.  How much of our reality has been decided, packaged and sealed up, and stamped “TRUE” in our brain?  No longer subject to analysis or criticism, or even logic, how many of the beliefs that guide our lives have we etched in stone?

 

That stranger is laughing as I walk by because they’re mocking me.

My friend hasn’t called because I’ve done something wrong and they’re mad at me.

I never win anything because that’s my fate.  I was born a Loser.

That dog chose to piss on the tree nearest me as a power move; that dog has it out for me.

 

My silly brain makes these sorts of little decisions all the time.  But I’ve learned it’s generally a good idea to subject them to review before filing them under “TRUE.”