You know how people say that the best way to face your fear is to face it head on? I find that rather inaccurate. Say for instance, you’re afraid of snakes. By the way, I actually love snakes and they are probably one of the most misunderstood animals, they would never intentionally hurt a human being! But you decide to hold one because people tell you that’s the way to get over the fear. In turn, it bites you and gives you some deathly disease. That doesn’t eliminate the fear, it completely reaffirms it. So what’s the alternative? Watching someone hold it? Keeping a good distance? Please, you’re probably never going to want to be in the same room as one. But facing fears is about exposure – the more you’re exposed, the anxiety that pushes you to think of the worst-case scenario, starts to dissolve.
When I was in school, I hated writing, reading and math with an absolute passion. Being a self-claimed perfectionist, everything that I put down on paper needed to make sense. Every word had to be accounted for because I felt that whatever I put down on paper, was enough. I was taught math one way and if I didn’t understand it, it was my fault. I struggled with reading because it took me a long time to process what I was reading. I hated writing because it was never perfect. My frustration was rooted in the fact that what made sense in my mind, didn’t make sense on paper. That was my worst nightmare, having to explain something when I thought I already did. My grades were borderline mediocre and I struggled a lot to keep it from teetering over.
Writing everything out gave me time to process, it gave me a platform where I could backspace and leave things unsaid. For a long time I was under the impression that if anyone were to criticize my writing it meant that it was a critique on my character. The thoughts in my mind often have no context, are often unfinished and are blatant observations. But it didn’t matter because it all made sense to me. It was second-nature for me to help students with transitions, flow, give them grammarly advice and I think I do it in a way that’s helpful. (Or I hope it is). Removing myself from the emotional part of writing made my job a lot easier because I just looked at structure. I didn’t want anyone to think that I was judging them because of the way that they wrote. Not that I have a horror story about someone laughing at me because of my writing, but I needed people to see that I had it together. Especially in my writing. That’s what fuelled me.
The anxious part of my brain that is fuelled by productivity tells me to work that much harder because more often than not, my words are lost in translation. If I just stated facts, who was anyone to argue with that? They’re facts.
The irony of it all is that I teach English. I praise kids on having the ability to captivate audiences with a couple sentences. Kids just write and it’s okay when their story starts off with two friends having lunch at a McDonalds and ends up with them flying in outer space. We actually encourage students to write with boundless creativity. But the more I got into reading their work, it reminded me that the whole point of writing, is to tell a story. I commended them on the detailed narratives they created, the use of language used to persuade and the ability to give characters backstories. But that inspiration has to come from somewhere. Sometimes it hits me while I’m in the car or a squirrel runs by my foot. The most amazing pieces I have read, I’ve been able to connect with someone I knew nothing about. Through their words, I knew their story.
So if writing is my snake and my exposure is going back to school, well, I guess I’m thrown in a bottomless pit festered with those disease-ridden reptiles with no way out.