Thursday, November 13, 2008

Named Must Your Fear...

"Named must your fear be before banish it you can."

My fear is... doing it wrong. Being wrong. Going the wrong way. More succinctly, I guess, I fear failure.

I am hesitant too often, because I want to do something the most perfect way it can be done. To move too quickly, from my perspective, can too often lead to regret and/or a situation that could be way better had you waited to act. I sometimes don't act at all, because if I did I would come across in a way I don't want to... overeager, conceited, incorrect, dumb...

I have always known that my Spanish-speaking skills suffer because of this fear of mine. I don't practice with native, or even non-native speakers very often because I am rusty, and I'd be revealed as someone who really didn't earn her minor in Spanish or month of language school in Costa Rica. While I was in Costa Rica, Ryan, the guy at my language school who advanced most in his skills, despite starting at a level lower than mine, was the one who practiced with every single person he encountered. The guy selling coconuts on the beach. The cute girl working at our favorite bar, El Club de Banana. He just went for it, laughing as he stumbled over verb conjugations and his limited library of adjectives. Ryan did not do it perfectly but he would always come back to us after these conversations with improved skills along with a new knowledge of the world and people around us.

Yesterday at work I could hear over the intercom, "If there are any Spanish speakers, can you please come to the front desk?" Sometimes when our bilingual receptionist is out for lunch, this happens, and one of the agents goes to the front to help whoever is there. But the intercome paged twice. I was near the front desk instead back in one our offices, trying to get something mailed. I didn't answer the pages, like usual. I looked over and saw two young men, looking uncomfortable and anxious. They needed something and no one understood them. I swallowed my fear of "doing it wrong" and went over to ask them, in Spanish, what they were there for and after a bit, we figured it out and got a message to the agent they'd come for. I know I said some words wrong, and couldn't get straight a few of their phrases, but the interaction had been successful. And I felt proud of myself... as I do whenever I am forced to interpret, though I don't seek out such opportunities.

I hadn't realized how many agents overheard me, and later that day got a few compliments and some, "I had no idea you spoke Spanish!" comments. I replied, "I hope you don't speak Spanish, so that you don't know how many mistakes I made!"

Later I realized that this is no way to operate... essentially saying, "I hope you don't know it all, because then you would realize how little I know." It is usually good to know just enough, and to use it wisely and confidently, and to always be trying to learn more. And to laugh when I make a mistake, but keep trying anyway, like Ryan.


Patricia said...

We miss out on so much, don't we, when we wait to be perfect, or even just much better, at things? Thanks for putting this so well. Someone like Ryan becomes not only the "most improved player", but is having great experiences and interactions.

Patricia said...

I also meant to say -- I'm proud of you! Keep it up!

Maggie said...

Doing it wrong or simply doing it "not good enough for my own ridiculous at tiems standards" is one of my big fears too. Thanks for your post. And keep speaking spanish!