We move our desks in an arrangement that makes a group of four. We all stare at each other waiting to hear our instructions. I stare at my paper in anticipation of a dreaded activity.
Person #1: Pick a paragraph. Read it out loud.
Person #2: Talk for one minute about the paragraph just read.
Person #3: Talk for one minute about the paragraph just read.
Person #4: Talk for one minute about the paragraph just read.
Person #1: Talk for THREE minutes about what everyone just contributed and explain why you picked that paragraph and what it means to you.
Everyone: Open Discussion. Talk for another THREE minutes about everything everyone just said.
Do this four times, switching roles each time.
In retrospect, this does not seem that difficult, but even the most prepared, intelligent, and open-minded individual would have a hard time with this activity. Why? Because, you are put on the spot. You are expected to explain things you have never talked about before. You must speak for the full amount of time. If you don’t, everyone stares at you like you have lost your way, like suddenly they went deaf and are trying to hear you but no sound is coming out, like you failed, like you haven’t done your job, like you are not good enough.
Expectations. The expectations of myself, the expectations of my classmates, and the expectations of my teacher all compounded in this activity. Not only did everyone in my group speak eloquently, fluently, and were full of big words, they never finished in the time frame. They had TOO much to say, TOO much to add, and an overabundance of life experiences that could never be simplified in a one minute allotted time span. I, on the other hand, had too LITTLE to say, to LITTLE to expand upon, and didn’t nearly have enough life knowledge to add to the conversation causing me to finish too EARLY.
I tried. I tried to say anything I could, but nothing seemed to match their level. Nothing could sound as great as they made it sound. Nothing could be formulated to sophisticatedly add another analytical layer. Nothing could beat them. Nothing.
I quickly realized my inadequacy, but was determined not to be defeated. I had never felt this way before. I had never been THAT kid. I was them. I was always them.
For a moment, I was struck dumb. I was silent. I didn’t talk. I refused because I was afraid of what would come out of my mouth. Some ridiculous, unintelligent, boring, supplemental narrative that didn’t do anything to the conversation.
My group mates caught on. Oh boy did they catch on. I wasn’t allowed to sit silently. That wasn’t part of the game. I HAD to talk.
“You haven’t spoken in a while, what do you think?” They all turn to me, eyes blaring in anticipation. Feeding off my embarrassment like vultures.
I could have strangled them.
If there is one thing I do thrive on, that is a challenge. They challenged me and I accepted. I spoke. I talked some more and before I knew it, I was talking TOO much and TOO long. I was saying things I never even thought I could say. I was participating. I had risen to their level. I was one of them.
The activity was over. I was stressed, but I made it through. I did what I convinced myself I couldn’t. But, what happened in the middle of the activity that made me fall? What made me doubt my self-worth? What made me less than? What made me silent?
I expected more of myself than I could handle in the moment. I expected myself to automatically adapt to the level and knowledge of those much older and more experienced than me. I was worried about what my classmates were thinking. I was worried my teacher would walk by and listen to my inadequate responses. I was over analyzing. I was defeating myself. I wasn’t playing the game.
Next time, I will play their game. I will rise and I will win. Why? Because that’s what I do. That’s what we all should do.
“Expectations, go to hell”- Three Days Grace