The last term of university starts out a little less than ideal.
Mostly because I chose to put myself in an uncomfortable situation.
It’s been a difficult first few weeks of term. Between getting organized, a mountain of reading, and trying to find balance in my life style, it’s been hard to find time to blog.
I’ve been stressing out a lot about one class in particular: a seminar of advanced techniques in biochemistry. I registered for it because I wanted to learn more about the novel and diverse technologies that are now available in research. I wanted to get up to date with my field of study.
Unfortunately, that means reading scientific papers.
What’s worse, that means presenting scientific papers.
This course gives me a lot of stress and anxiety because the entire grade is based on class participation and presentation skills. Twice a week, we meet up and a pair of students present a scientific paper, followed by discussion. This means reading two scientific papers a week, which is terribly time consuming and mentally challenging.
My love of reading novels did not prepare me for reading academic journals and research papers, which are of an entirely different format, scope, and difficulty. I need to read a paper at least twice to get a gist of what’s going on, followed by extensive background research as to the mechanisms and terminology so I can understand what’s going on.
I hate it.
I also hate presenting. Public speaking is not my forte, and the idea of saying my opinions out loud in discussion makes me nervous. It’s really bad–my heart starts beating really hard and I become inarticulate.
So why did I do this to myself?
Because I hate discussing and presenting so much.
These are skills necessary in science and in life, and I am terrible at them. I hate feeling so nervous when trying to speak up. I’ve thought about why I find it so nerve-wracking and it’s boiled down to one thing:
I am afraid to fail. I am afraid I’m going to say something wrong or unintelligent. I am afraid of looking stupid. I’m afraid of messing up. And I’m afraid of people seeing me this way.
And this is a dumb fear. I am human. I am have shortcomings and make mistakes. I don’t know everything.
This leads to a second fear: I am afraid to try. Can’t look stupid if I don’t put myself in a position where it might happen. Therefore, trying = possibility of failing = scary.
This too, is an irrational fear. How the heck am I supposed to succeed if I don’t even try? I can’t. No one can.
Our professor warned us that if we didn’t want to put ourselves in a position of discussion and public speaking, we could drop the class, because the waitlist is really long. And I considered it. I really did.
But after realizing my fears, I decided I should stick with this course. Sure, I might hate it, but it forces me to get over my irrational fear of trying. It forces me to try.
And I know I can do it. I’ve done it as a co-op student. I’ve presented other papers and my own work to my peers and my supervisors, contributed to discussions, provided feedback and taken criticism.
Maybe it was scary. And it will be scary. But so are rollercoasters, and heights, and going to job interviews.
And I love roller coasters, and views from cliffs and ziplines, and–well, let’s not talk about job interviews.
The point is, it’s the things that seem scary that can lead to some of the greater joys. (Yes, even interviews, since I need a way to pay for those roller coaster tickets.)