“There is no challenge more challenging than the challenge to improve yourself.”
— Michael F. Staley, motivational speaker and head of Golden Hour Motivational Resources of Port Orange, FL
I am not the type of person who handles challenges very well.
If the world–my world–worked the way I wanted it to, learning every new skill (cognitive or otherwise) would be like breathing–natural. In fact, I would be so hot like fire that even my comedic timing would remain sharp all day everyday.
However, this is not my imaginary world but the real world, which means I cannot know how to speak Spanish after one day (unless I was an android maybe. But I digress).
What is bringing all this up is one of my classes I am taking at the university–the Advanced Standing Research course. This course is one dedicated to teaching students about the wonders of research, measurement tools, the difference between qualitative and quantitative research methods, various types of sample populations (snowball sampling, probability sampling, availability sampling, quota sampling, etc) and so forth. For the sake of the course, the class has to measure the success or failure of an intervention pertaining to a demographic of our choice. I chose supportive housing for former sex workers as an intervention and I have to measure the outcomes of the intervention (meaning whether or not supportive housing would actually help former sex workers maintain stability after exiting the profession). I have to find a qualitative measuring tool (i.e. survey) to find data and statistics that will either prove or disprove the effectiveness of my intervention.
I stress that this is my understanding of the assignment. At least NOW it is.
I received a C on “Part 1” of the paper and I immediately emailed my professor asking if I could meet with her. I met with her tonight via Google Hangout and I still feel like I do not have a grasp of what I am supposed to do. Plus, I felt like the professor was a little condescending throughout the entire Hangout session. She has this smirk on her face the entire time; This may be my thinking, but I sense that she does not believe I am reading the material, so I must not understand the foundation of research, which why I am panicking. The truth is that I am panicking because I feel like I am playing a bad round of Duck Hunt and my professor is the hound pointing and laughing at me every time I miss a fuckin’ duck.
But all joking aside, it is to the point where I would look at the assignment and my brain paralyzes. I have this extremely sick desire to just fold my arms and say “Fuck this noise.” I tell myself that I hate the class, I hate research and that the professor does not know which end is up. I literally avert my attention to some mindless task (i.e. watching Kevin Hart on Netflix) because it is easier to do. That is when I realized my lack of tolerance for challenge.
When I am pushed to expand beyond my comfort zone, I (for the most part) react like Bilbo Baggins when Gandalf knocked on his door (“There won’t be any adventures today. Good day, sir” *slams the door in Gandalf’s face*). I recoil as my mind flatly states that the tasks at hand is “too hard.” Instead of asking myself what I can do different to jump higher and run faster, I basically shut down, which only compounds the frustration.
My behavior is nothing new and exciting and I am not the only survivor who throws mental tantrums like this. Many of us have a certain comfort zone that basically sculpted our entire identity and dictates our behavior. So when our physical, cognitive and even sexual skills are either challenged or surpassed, we react in a way that is only detrimental to us and us alone. For instance, my research class is stretching me mentally and cognitively, forcing me to conclude that my coasting by in graduate school will not hold water in academia or in the professional world. Now a part of me wants to fold my arms, say “Fuck this noise” and drop out of school. Another part of me is so shitfaced scared that I will catch a self-induced panic attack (this part showed itself to the professor to some degree tonight).
But there is also that other half of me that wants to slap this paper in the face and finish it like it is Mortal Kombat. And that is the half that is writing this entry right now. For one, I cannot avoid this paper but can only ask questions until I understand what the hell I am doing. Secondly, there is more at stake here: I am one of four African-American students in the class and I am expected to fail based on skin color alone. I CANNOT allow myself to fail or show any more fear because of this class. And, more importantly, it is time for me to find other alternatives besides shutting down and doing nothing. Paralysis served its purpose. However, I cannot play into it any longer.
So I am going to do this paper and be an active participant in my own success. Life is a challenge in and of itself, so what am I going to do? Stop living? I challenge you, Dear Reader, to question what is holding you back and what you can do to snap out of it one day at a time. It is easier said than done, but examining your fear of challenge and overcoming it is much better than being overwhelmed and paralyzed.
In other words, do not let the hound get away with laughing you.