log: grim milestone

WORMDATE: L2-2.5: 370-80,131: 11-1459

I finished my winter session yesterday. It was a stressful and busy session. Either of these classes, taken by themselves would have been more than enough to keep me busy.

Pretty typical school day for the last couple weeks: Started school at 11AM, took a break to cook dinner for the wife and me, had a short nap, and at about 3:30AM, call it a day.

The Korean history class was dense. Not including the assigned readings, the primary source readings or the tests (two a week), every week we had to make 20-30 slides containing 5-7 points with at least one picture on each key term. Just making slides is time consuming. Often, we had no readings on these key terms and had to conduct our own research. Pretty often, the information was really hard to find.

Part of the issue is –the Korean language gets Romanized under a few different systems. So, for example, the name 박 can get translated as Park, Pak, or Bak. That’s just one simple and common name. When you’re getting into policies, which have pretty generic names, or the name of, I dunno, let’s say the name of Kim Il-Sung’s faction within the Korean Workers Party and the name you were given is different than the one the faction usually goes under, and the name you were given happens to correspond with a broader social phenomena, and that name is the only piece of information you’ve been given, well, it takes some fucking time just to figure out what you’re supposed to even be looking for, let alone finding it.

And images! Even on this blog, finding images has always been the most time inefficient thing – like the amount of time it takes compared to what you get out of it . . .

So, yeah, a bit of a tough time-sink of a class but, really, a very good one. Ended up with a decent overview of Korean history and more than enough information to narrow and pursue my interests into eras, people, or just practices, beliefs, and concepts.

헌국어 수업이는 좋어핬어요. But maybe a little disappointing too. Thing is, it was supposed to be conversational Korean but it was a lot like my other two classes. I understand that grammar is important but I was really hoping to get a lot more practice in with speaking and listening — you know, conversating. It just didn’t play out like that. But there was a little bit.

Man, that went badly.

We had this one test that was like eight questions that we had to answer using the deferential form. (This is, er, kind of the least conversational form of speaking — the deferential form is more of a making a public address or having a job interview form of speaking.) Anyway, I studied my ass off for this thing.

My study partner was a heritage speaker who is an aerospace engineer who works for NASA on the motherfucking rovers. (To me, this is a bit like meeting a rockstar or some shit.) She was terrific and put me through the drills. I was ready. She was firing questions at me at random and, yeah, I’m a bit slow on the uptake but I could do it. Like, I had it.

Anyway, time for the test came. I froze. Had some sort of panic attack.

When using English, I don’t mind public speaking. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like public speaking and it scares me, but I can manage the fear. My legs will wobble but I can just ignore whatever my body is doing and get through it. But this fear just hit me and I could not manage it. Like, at all. It paralyzed me. The test was administered on ZOOM by a TA and in front of about seven classmates, I think, maybe more. I don’t know. I can’t remember.

The first question went okay. Then I suddenly became aware of all my classmates, my prof listening, and the sound of my own voice. Of me. Misery is total self-awareness.

My chest went tight. I would like to say that my head went empty but my head was actually pretty full. It was full of a voice screaming “MAKE IT STOP – STOP THIS – SOMEONE STOP THIS – MAKE IT STOP.” I couldn’t even hear what was being said, let alone understand it.

I don’t even know what happened next. It’s an awful blur.

After, I just wanted to lay down and cry. I felt embarrassed and humiliated. Just sick to my stomach with humiliation and shame and embarrassment. Aside from that, I felt horrible that I’d put so much work in and done so badly. A stranger sort of feeling about it was — I felt like I’d really let the team down. I wasn’t even on a team. But my study partner had taken hours out of her own day to tutor me –free of charge– and this is what I did with that effort.

If quitting was an option, I would have quit. Like, that would’ve been it for me and trying to learn. I would just toss in the towel and be like — fuck it. Too hard. Feels too bad. Nope.

That’s not really an option.

Just about the only way I know to get past these feelings is time. Seeing that I didn’t really have time –there being only one more day until the next class– I had to compress time. To me, time is basically things happening. So I just threw myself into a bunch of work and tried to squeeze as much distance between me and that presentation as possible. I got enough work in to let me at least show my face in class again. But, boy, I was shook. I am shook.

I’m not really used to being overwhelmed by fear. Fear? Sure. But being overwhelmed by it? I’m not even sure the cause is all that important. The feeling itself is enough to fuck you up.

But anyway, I did my final presentation for class yesterday. 5-7 minute speech. About myself of all people. At my best I don’t know how to talk about Ryan Oakley in English for ten seconds — trying to do it in Korean? Yeesh. Yesterday, I spent four hours trying to do it. Then I spent an hour and a half putting the video together only to discover that my mic wasn’t working.

So then I was just like YOLO, grabbed the phone and spent and hour and half just trying to say the shit, reading off my script more than I would have liked but — fuck it. Just an awful spectacle, I’m sure. But, when you get right down to it, learning is an act of self-mutilation. If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not learning. And it hurts. So what? Forward on.

My winter session is done. And, at least, I have some time now.

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