Monday, September 20, 2010

Feeling like a school girl again...anxiety!

     Ok, I'll admit something very revealing about myself (that is if you don't know me. Believe me, this will not be shocking to anyone who does know me).  Let's talk anxiety, shall we?  The dictionary (New Webster's little shelf edition I owe) says "intense dread; apprehension".  That's true.  After all, as I write this I can feel that intense dread and apprehension washing over me. When I typed it into Google I received over 50,000 websites associated or dealing with the term, 'anxiety'.  That's enough to make someone anxious, I would think.  So here I am getting ready to start the actual first class of my college experience on the 29th of this month, a mere eight days from right now.  I thought I had figured out ways to cope with my anxieties around starting a new experience, going to school, assignments, quizzes, final exams, papers, etc.  I know where the anxiety comes from, though, is that even helpful?  Sometimes I wonder. 

    My anxiety comes directly from the fear of failure.  The intense dread and apprehension I feel embarking on a new project, not done before.  So, I attended college back about 22 years ago, I shouldn't feel it's new, because in a lot of ways, it really isn't.  I love school, education, learning, so that should be calm for me.  I love writing and doing assignments, so that shouldn't play a part in my anxieties.  However, here I am, and there they are.  Creeping up around me like those thorny brambles from Sleeping Beauty. 

     I try to alleviate my anxiety by learning.  So I prepared myself.  Read the material, websites required, look over all the resources in the classroom and at the school.  Read, read, and read some more.  Guess what?  That's what creates a lot of my anxiety.  Funny, huh?  Being anxious is a fact of my life, it seems, whether I want it or not. 

    My most recent trip into the anxiety crazed mind I walk around with: PLAs.  Prior Learning Assessments they are officially called.  That's (if you don't know) when a student can try to receive credit for  their work experiences.  Great idea.  I love receiving credit for what I have accomplished, so I'm in.  I found out all about it. Read, read, and read some more.  Then I contacted my advisor, remember her? CN.  She liked my paragraph about my work experience and suggested that I use it for my documentation.  Great!  I loved it.  I was moving ahead.  Then I read some more and found out that I have to take another course just to do my PLA essay.  Ok, I get credits for it, and at the end I will have a finished completely polished PLA (I hope), so I thought 'that works'.  Then the anxiety went into full swing.  I mean, I didn't even start my first course and this whole PLA thing is long and a lot of documentation is required to be considered for it.  Not to mention that it costs extra money to submit each essay (and those are 10-15 pages in length and then add in all the supporting documents).  When that is complete then the student may or may not receive the credits from their work experience.  That's it.  I was worried.  What if I didn't qualify?  What if all that hard work I first accomplished by doing the jobs, then by doing the PLA didn't get me any credits?  Was I failure?  I would think I was.  So I needed an answer.  Only trouble was -- there isn't one.  No answer, no judgement call until the PLA is submitted and evaluated.  That could take months.  After all I can't even submit it until after I've taken two courses.  Oh no, more anxiety.  Something to continually worry about.  Perfect.  Exactly what I hate about myself.  Worrying.  Yet I do it, and often. 

     I know I'm the type of girl (yea, I figured it out) that needs an answer to a question before the question is asked.  Hence, all my need for learning - exactly why I am here doing college again. So I get that about myself.  I also realize it's all very unrealistic to think that way.  After all, you can't get an answer to a question without the question being posed - or can you?

    As I stated, I always liked school.  I love the environment, the classrooms, the chalkboards.  I even like going into schools.  Somehow being there makes me feel good.  So I'm a school geek that way, but back to answering a question before it is posed.  In school I learned that you read the book, answer the questions (if there are any) at the end of the chapter and prepare to answer the questions before they are asked by the teacher.  Right?  Well, there's my problem.  That's what school is to a certain extent.  Teachers pose questions that students are expected to answer and hopefully be correct about.  There are exceptions, of course.  Some questions posed are for discussions or opinions.  Those questions cannot ever be answered before they are asked, can they?  So that's an exception and actually I do understand those.  No anxiety much around philosophical or opinion based questions.  However most school rooms do have the idea that the answer to a question posed by a teacher about the subject should be answered correctly.  That is how we know as students we understand the material and know it, and how the teacher knows we read it and hopefully understood it.  Or at least that's what I always believed while I was in school.  Unfortunately, I took on that philosophy in life.  Ask a question, know the answer.  What a terrible mistake on my behalf? 

    First of all, I don't always do that.  Sometimes I actually ask questions for the answers.  It's true.  You know my need to learn and all supercedes that philosophy sometimes.  But when it comes to classrooms I truly want to know the answer before the question is raised.  I guess some would say that's proactive thinking and if you're prepared, it should be fine.  But I say as proactive and useful as it might be in the classroom, it needs to not leave the classroom much.  Trying to know the answers to questions I could never have predicted would come my way has gotten me into intense situations that have led to very difficult conversations. Me, trying to scramble to come up with an answer when I don't have one, and feeling the anxiety surround me as I do this.  It is said that if you don't know the answer, say so.  Ok, I've seen people do that and I have some serious respect for them.  It all seems so easy when they say it.  No sweat.  But if I don't know the answer my problem is 'should I have?'  In other words, is it a test of some kind?  I know, I know, it's horrible thinking.  I need to change it.  Hopefully, all this reading and those 50,000 sites on anxiety will help me change it.

   So here's my final thought:

     Starting today (and I will do the best I can) if I cannot answer a question, I will not.  I will find out the answer, but relieve the anxiety and say simply 'I don't know the answer to that.'  I will try to understand that I do not need to have an answer to every question posed to me.  Nor will I feel like a failure if I do not know the answer.  I will treat it as a learning experience and nothing more.  As humans we can not know everything and that is the reason why we learn: to grow, to expand our knowledge.  The reason why we ask questions is the same.  There is nothing wrong with this and there is nothing to be afraid of.

Until next time... from the school girl who is still learning


  1. I think it's awesome that you put your soul and thoughts out here. What a great way to try to alleviate those fears by sending them out over the web.
    I am still so very proud of you

  2. Oh – how I can relate. It’s like feeding your symptoms into Google and trying to get a diagnosis, by the time you’re done, you have to add anxiety to your symptoms! Sounds like you are headed in the right direction! Keep up the positive outlook!

  3. Your bravery quotient keeps growing! It's very brave to acknowledge and face your anxieties like this. Most of what we fear/makes us anxious is the unknown. By talking about them like this you shine a light into the darkness and can see what's there. You can also hear from others who relate. Wanting to know the answer before the question is asked is something that motivates me as well. I dread that moment of being asked a question with no clue as to the answer. It's a major step in the right direction to know when to admit you simply don't know the answer. Great Job!