Okay, I will tell you what happened even though it is really embarrassing. God, I tell you guys everything apparently. It's really scary for me to be so honest and put this out there for everyone to read, but I am working on being brave and completely sincere, so here it is. I didn't turn in my term-paper. I probably could have pushed through and finished it (I only had an introduction to write), but it would have undone weeks of hard work. I know what you are thinking: "She procrastinated." In general I would say that I didn't procrastinate (although there is always room for improvement).
I started working on this paper about a month ago (I bet you weren't expecting that one!), and I started writing it about two weeks ago. This is the most planning I have ever done for a paper. I could even argue that I started it before Christmas, because that's when I had my first meeting with my professor about it (I was the one who took the initiative to schedule it) and started reading the book he recommended for it. However, let's say I started a month ago because that is when I met with him to pitch my idea, at which point he pitched me a new one. I used his idea of course.
Done looking down your nose and judging me? Good. Let's move on.
His idea was for me to build a paper on the literary theories of Homi Bhabha, who is a post-colonial literary critic, and tie them to Zadie Smith's fantastic novel White Teeth. First, I had to read Homi Bhabha's work though. Here's a sample of the text.
If, for a while, the ruse of desire is calculable for the uses of discipline soon the repetition of guilt, justification, pseudo-scientific theories, superstition, spurious authorities, and classifications can be seen as the desperate effort to “normalize” formally the disturbance of a discourse of splitting that violates the rational, enlightened claims of its enunciatory modality.
Needless to say, I started panicking because I was having trouble figuring out what he was saying and retaining it. This is a message I sent to Naomi about a passage I read of Bhabha:
However, it was a complex paper, the hardest I have ever written, and by that point it was too late. Even though I didn't put it off until the last minute, I was still working until the last minute, and it wasn't enough. But instead of feeling ashamed of myself (well of course I did a little), I felt proud that I had tried to be responsible about it. Sure, it didn't work out, but I didn't feel like it was because I was a lazy procrastinator. I gave a sincere effort.
I feel proud of how I have been handling failure recently, I'm getting really good at it. I haven't been doing Aikido very well the last couple weeks (in fact I feel down-right incompetent at times) but I don't let it bother me. I used to get really frustrated with myself if I didn't learn a move immediately, or if I took a bad roll, but now I don't even think about it. I just stay in the moment and hope that next time will be better. The result is that it stays fun for me, and I can laugh at myself, causing other people to laugh with me.
People seem to enjoy working with me because of my attitude. Asai Shihan likes to watch me and chuckle/giggle (imagine George Takei silently laughing at you. That is almost exactly what it is like.) as if he is watching an adorable puppy running on a linoleum floor and crashing head-first into a wall. Only for me, it is a mat. Literally, I did a front roll the other day and went head-first into the mat. I decided that instead of being called a "forward roll" it should be called a "forehead roll." My motto for those occasions is "Just keep smiling and they won't know you have a concussion."
It's so important to learn how to be okay with failure in Aikido for two reasons. First, because if you are concentrating on what just happened, you won't be prepared to deal with the next attack. Secondly, (this is my big problem with front rolls) if you are afraid of doing something, you will do poorly each time you attempt it. That is because you approach it with a bad mental attitude and expect failure; instead, you have to approach with a beginner mind. This means you have an open mind, and you don't presume to know anything about the subject, just accepting whatever comes. Try to diagnose what works and doesn't work without judging it. Easier said than done. Get away from the idea of "right" and "wrong," and allow yourself to play with it. Just feel yourself moving within the moment. Learning--effective learning--happens when you relax into challenges instead of tensing up and battling them. Once again, this is easier said than done.
Every time I successfully get up from a failure (literally in the case of aikido) and see that it hasn't hurt me (literally) I am more willing to try it again and attempt bigger failures. Suddenly, putting yourself out there doesn't seem so scary. Being honest and sincere isn't something to be afraid of, because you don't feel like you have to be ashamed of your failures or hide them. It's just like I was told in band and orchestra, "If you are going to make a mistake, make it loud." The point is, if you are always afraid of failure you will never be bold, and you will never grow.
So, telling the world I didn't turn in my term paper might be a really stupid idea, but I am going to take that risk. And as for the term paper, everything turned out alright. I talked to the professor, and I can turn it in next semester without re-taking the class. It was a really good thing I didn't hand him in a sloppy copy too, because he had checked out books from the library for the sole purpose of reading my paper. Did I mention he was really, really excited for the paper? This idea was kind of his baby, so that's one of the reasons I felt so much pressure while writing it. He said he was glad that I didn't turn it in, because he would have been really disappointed with a sub-par paper. And his par is higher than any of the other English professors I have had, plus a bit higher because I am a native speaker (though his English is better than mine), plus a little bit higher because I am one of his favorite students. He would have annihilated my paper, and I didn't want to disappoint him.
I tried my best, and I am proud of how much I stretched myself on this paper. I am also proud of how open I am being in this blog. And you know what, each time I take a risk I get a positive result in some way. Whether it is through increased readership with the blog, better performances with music, or better ukemi (rolling and falling) in aikido. If you give everything you have, the world will give you something back. (Within reason, you can't be stupid about your risks.) I'm actually starting to enjoy failing and taking risks.
With that, I hope you all fail at life.
P.S. I'm procrastinating posting this right now because I am nervous. Okay. Closing my eyes and doing this. And remembering to breathe.