Thursday, July 2, 2009

Not Finished, Not a Failure

Yesterday I walked up to the registrar's office and dropped a class for the first, and hopefully last, time in my life. I've talked to many of you about how much I was looking forward to this class and how excited I was, so perhaps in a sense this blog entry is an explanation.

I heard about this class towards the beginning of the Spring semester. And English professor I didn't know very well came to the library desk with a huge stack of Tolkien books, and as I checked them out for him I started a casual conversation (considering how much the subject interests me). I found out he would be teaching a class on Tolkien's works in the summer. I immediately decided I would be taking it. Anyone who knows me at all would view it as a given that I would.

I talked to my advisor and learned that the class would not cover any of my necessary credits, but that was OK with me because I love the subject so much. So I signed up for the class and looked forward to it immensely.

I got through the literature class I was taking, and then started the Tolkien class the next day. For about the first week, I was mostly alright with it. I even got to read a few shorter pieces I hadn't read before. The class proved to be difficult on my schedule, as it meant I had to be late to work every day and I had to bring something to eat at the desk in the library for lunch, but I decided I could just keep working around that.

But as time went on, a few things changed. One, I realized I wasn't learning anything. This didn't bother me too much at first; after all, I've learned very little in the English and Literature classes I've taken in college thus far (excepting my very first composition class which I did as dual credit while still in highschool). That kind of thing is like playing for me; it requires little to no effort. The Tolkien class was no different. Also, several of the other students seemed to believe themselves very knowledgeable on the subject of Tolkien, which I found slightly irritating yet vaguely amusing considering no one else in the class but my brother had actually even read The Silmarillion (which I've read through four times, in case you wondered). What did frustrate me is when they would get things wrong and be too prideful to be corrected. Furthermore, I am a very quiet person, and the class was set in discussion format. That is the worst possible format for me. The professor can talk to me for hours and I'll drink it in and learn. But the moment you ask me to say something, I get lost, confused, and feel like a total idiot. Every time I even tried to offer a thought, one of the guys would interrupt me and ignore what I had said. I gave up, because I'm perfectly content to listen. It's what I do. However, it meant I wasn't participating in the class.

When we reached the discussion of The Lord of the Rings, yet more changed. Primarily the fact that the teacher began mercilessly criticizing the movies. Even when he talked about the book, it was in the context of “and this is an area where Peter Jackson, once again, failed.” Understand, I do not by any means believe that the movies are perfect. I have annoyances with them; many, in fact. But no movie is perfect. That said, I believe Lord of the Rings comes as close as any movies possibly can to perfection. They totally changed my life, and had a huge impact on the person I have become (see my blog post from February on the subject). So for me to hear them shredded, day after day, was incredibly painful. It felt like I myself was being torn apart, because the movies are part of me. I was nearly in tears by the end of class one day, and I realized “this is ridiculous. Why am I doing this?”

In addition to that, I noticed a disturbing trend in myself. I was starting to complain about the class. Not just laying out my opinions, logically and rationally. I would come home and bitterly rant. This is very out of character for me, because I have fought so hard against it. I have an incredibly strong natural tendency to be negative about things. However, two years ago I gave that to God and waited to see what He could do. The result is that I only slip into complaining and being really negative if I feel wounded, lost, cornered, and like I have no other way out (note that I have been very negative at times about school in general, and the people there – that's why. I'm not excusing the behavior, simply explaining it). I am constantly fighting against the urge to be bitter, and this class was drawing that old tendency out in me to an alarming degree.

Basically, I could see no possible reason for staying in the class. I wasn't learning anything. I wasn't enjoying it. I couldn't even claim I was in it to spend time with my brother, considering he sleeps through class most days (I don't know how he does it – Mar is like a sleeping machine). I was only going to hurt myself and those around me more by staying in it. So I worked up the courage to e-mail my professor and advisor, and I dropped it.

It's my natural first inclination to feel like this was a major failure on my part. I keep thinking I should have made it work. But then I realize did I really need to make this work?

The last day of class that I sat in on, I prayed before going to class and asked God to guide me that day and show me what He would have me do. We watched part of the movie that day, Moria to be specific. Gandalf's line to Frodo hit me very, very hard. All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you. What would I rather do? Sit in on a class with no foreseeable benefits and be miserable for two hours a day? Or spend two extra hours at home, helping my mother, playing with my dear, funny little brother who I hardly ever get to see, eating lunch normally, and getting to work on time?

I don't think the decision I made was a failure. Not this time, at least. I just have to remind myself of that.

And of course there is the regret that something I was looking forward to so very much ended up being nothing but more frustration and disillusionment. But that is the story of my entire college experience thus far: look forward to it, dream, and reach it and find out it's all dust and ashes crumbling in my hands. I feel absolutely no ill will to the teacher; I can't blame him for opinions. I would never blame anyone for that. And I will not mourn for one class that falls by the wayside. In the grand scheme of things, the most meaningful thing is that I'm consciously choosing the road that I believe is right.

- Elraen -


Anonymous said...

Hi Raen, it's me, Angel. :) I know it's always frustrating to drop some sort of activity. I know the feeling- it makes me feel almost guilty. But you sounded so miserable, I'm glad you made that decision. And the LOTR movies rock no matter what they said. :P Love you, girl. *hugs*

Melda said...

Often, it's harder to see what's happening and accept it, even if you don't like it, than it is to pretend everything's okay. We WANT everything to be okay.

Kudos to you for knowing what's really important ;)

Linda B said...

You did the right thing. You can't let someone else steal your enjoyment of something that's such a big part of your life.

Liz said...

dropping a class is THE hardest thing to do, trust me i had to drop 2 of them this year and then i failed one and i finally realized God was telling me to get my butt out of the school i was in and do something else...

I believe you are NOT a failure and this just didn't work out, don't worry, God gives us passions for a reason and putting up with people destroying one of your passions day after day is demeaning to yourself, don't worry it will all work out in the end =)


♥ Liz