I had a thought today as I was sitting in the teacher’s lounge, feeling my heart palpitate with anxiety, and it was essentially this: Why the hell do I put myself in these situations? Seriously, I feel as though I am going to have a heart attack. I have spent the last two hours waiting for my time in the classroom, ruminating over my hyper-analyzed lesson plan and worrying about things I don’t even know to worry about yet. I think the great philosopher Eminem put it best when he said:
His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti
He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready
To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgettin’
What he wrote down, the whole crowd goes so loud
He opens his mouth, but the words won’t come out
He’s chokin’, how, everybody’s jokin’ now
The clocks run out, times up, over, blaow!
But then I considered my history of putting myself in situations like this. I can remember considering my inevitable doom as I walked to the front of the stage at McGill University during one of my Big Band’s performances, about to perform a five minute solo infront of all of my peers, likely the best musicians I will ever have the privilege to work with. Never have I suffered anxiety like that of the first week of my CELTA course. I can remember walking into Wizville, the school that I taught at during my year in South Korea, on the first day of school wondering how I might pull this off, this pretending to be a teacher, for one whole year. Countless moments in India of near-fatal stress induced hypertension as the metaphorical ‘shit’ was hitting the fan. And now, here I am, sitting in the teacher’s lounge in a Kenyan high school, not only contemplating how many ways I will likely crash and burn in the classroom, but also curious about whether all of these highly talented, highly passionate ACTUAL teachers look at me as a fraud as well.
I realize, however, that there is a pattern amongst all of these examples, that pattern being that I keep stepping back into the pit of anxiety-driven despair. And you know what? Ultimately I freakin love it. Sure, if you had asked me if I was ‘lovin it’ as I was counting down the last 10 minutes of my sanity until class started, I would have told you to shove it, but I suppose that that is the natural reaction of most people when facing high-stress situations. During that moment nobody wants to go through it, but afterwards it is pretty damn enjoyable. After you go through it you definitely feel different, more developed, more experienced. You realize that NO, it was not even close to as bad as you had imagined and YES, you are fully capable to do it again.
There are two things that I have come to accept that will always ensure that I get through these situations in one piece. The first is simple: Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t avoid things just because you feel that there is a chance it might not turn out ok, that you won’t do as well as your ego might like. Its basic trial and error. You give it a try and see how it goes. Sure, you might fail. Hell, there is probably a pretty good chance that you will crash and burn in a glorious display, but it is important to realize that you wont ALWAYS fail. Each time you give it a try you learn, which makes each consecutive attempt improve on the last. Coupled to this idea is that you cannot be afraid to embarrass yourself. If you can get over your hubris and allow yourself to be displayed as the fool that you are, that we all are, you realize that it acts as nothing more than a self-imposed barrier to success.
The second thing that always gets me through these situations is that eventually, no matter what, it will eventually be over. The arrow of time can only move forward, and soon enough you will be relieved of the stressful situation and will be basking in its afterglow. This means that you must accept your immediate fate, forgetting the big picture. The big picture is not of concern in that moment. All you need to think about is what you need to do to get through the next moment and to come out in one piece. This is truly a liberating outlook, one that I guarantee can get you through anything.
So the final outcome of my first day of teaching? Absolutely success. The lesson went quite well, we got through everything without any problems, and had a great kind of meet-and-greet class discussion. As I had figured would be the case but couldn’t completely accept before, there was literally nothing to be worried about.
I’m sure that this is self evident to anyone reading this, so excuse the unnecessary of it all. I simply feel that sometimes the obvious has to be put on display to be aware of it.