Friday, September 4, 2009

You know it just ain't easy...

¿Hablas español?

With those two words, you now know what my most difficult subject in school is. Right now, anyway. Spanish is a lot of hard, continuous work, and for some reason that bothers me.

Why, you might ask? After all, I'm taking four, count 'em, FOUR psychology courses, two of them 400 level (read "senior", all of you who haven't been here yet), and I'm not whining about them even though I'm reading and writing like mad to get through them with good grades. Yet, Spanish is the one subject that makes me start sweating at the very word "examen". Yep, yesterday was my first chapter exam, on chapter 10 of my brand-new book.

But why does Spanish worry me so? One simple reason: I have to really work hard at it.

I know some of you are laughing now. I'd be laughing too, it it was someone else. But here's the deal: when I first went back to school, several years ago, I was worried sick about being able to handle it. I didn't know how to write a paper, I didn't know how to use a lot of the functions on a computer, I hadn't taken a class since I had graduated from high school in 1977! And yet, once I got started, I learned how to handle it all. As a matter of fact, much to my surprise, I was actually pretty good at it! So, I got pretty decent grades, and held down a full-time job while going to school part-time. I found that I could write fairly well, understand the reading I was having to do, and really enjoy my classes. Wonderful!

Then I found out that I would have to pass the intermediate level of a foreign language to graduate from any university in the UNC system, so I chose Spanish. Easy, right? It's a language spoken by quite a number of people in this part of the country, and I didn't have to learn a new alphabet. Yeah, easy. Till the first day of my first class, when I realized that everyone else in my beginning class had taken at least one other class before that one. And I started to have to struggle to keep up.

So, here I am, in intermediate Spanish, a class I will have to pass to graduate, and I'm already working hard to keep up with my (half my age) classmates. And sweating it out. WHY? Because I'm having to WORK at it! Instead of having fun writing interesting papers and getting into cool discussions in my class (like the vast majority of my classes since I went back to school), I am writing notes as fast as I can, and trying to understand a textbook that might as well be in Greek. ¡Ay, Dios mio!

And yet, as much as I'd rather be in a class that I can have fun in, I need to do this one. This is part of my requirement to graduate, and I need to just go ahead on and study. Sometimes, I'm a bit spoiled by the fact that I can get decent grades in a lot of subjects without spending every spare moment curled up with a textbook. Sometimes, I have to remember that good things don't always come easy.

A couple of weeks ago, I was again reminded of that very fact. I received a note from someone I knew a long time ago, when I was a teenager.

I was a pretty awkward kid back then. I liked books better than I did people, but I hated school because I didn't fit in, and everybody knew it. Like a lot of kids, I endured a lot of bullying, a lot of pain. Without going into unnecessary details, I'll just say that it was the grace of God that brought me through those years, and into a happy life as an adult. It's not a time that I've spent a lot of time thinking about in the last couple of decades, by my own choice.

So when this note showed up, I was more than a little surprised at the fact that she wanted to say she was sorry for her part in those years. And even more surprised by the fact that I was feeling upset. In all those years, I had never honestly realized that I hadn't forgiven the kids who had made my life so unhappy, I had just managed to stuff it down and forget about it. But it was still there, deep inside me, waiting for a chance to reemerge over thirty years later.

So, it's time for me to do another hard thing: forgive people who wronged me, even though we have been separated by an entire continent and thirty years. Yeah, this is tough. It is hard work for me to let this pain go, to forgive, and to let the wounds heal that shaped a portion of what I became as an adult. But if I run away from it, as I have many times before and with many other people, I will only harm myself. When God commands that we forgive, it's for our own good, so that we can heal and grow towards what we have been created to be, and not be mired down by anger and grief over our past. I can't pretend that it doesn't need to be done, just because it's tough. It is necessary, that's all I really need to know.

So, folks, it's back to work. With the help of God, my friends and my family, I can do hard things. Whether they involve a textbook or not.

¡Gracias a Dios!

Your hardworking sister,



  1. I feel your pain about learning languages. I tried to learn Chinese. I lasted 2 semesters and then decided that the stress of never knowing if i was going to pass or not was too much. Several months after finishing it i was still getting nightmares about that unit.

  2. Can't say I blame you, hon! I won't take any more Spanish after this semester, though that doesn't mean I don't want to learn more. I know it could really come in handy.
    But I get so wound up, trying to keep up, I just don't want to be graded on it anymore!

  3. With so many very good online learning resources unless you need the certification or enjoy the pressure, learning languages in an academic setting doesn't seem to be the best option any more. I found that since for me it takes a long time and a lot of uses for words/characters to sink in that taking classes where i was tested sometimes as little as a week after i first learned something didn't really work.

  4. Oooh. No, don't need the certification, thank the dear Lord! What I want to be able to do is pretty basic, be able to read a newspaper or my dual language Bible, and be able to hold a conversation with a native speaker without freezing up like a deer in the headlights! :oD
    The divinity school I'm applying to has field education opportunities where I would need some Spanish, but I've got to get better at speaking it. Hope to, anyway.

  5. I can't speak any other languages, so I'm super impressed. :)

    Forgiving people is hard, I know. It's an emotional, frustrating, sometimes long process, but it can be done. I'll pray for you.

  6. Thank you. ALL prayer appreciated, believe me!