Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The rudest thing I'll ever do

Have you ever had that terrible moment wherein you're sitting in a lecture or a movie or a play (or any even to which you've commit yourself for an extended period of time) and you realize that, oh no, it is exactly the opposite of what you expected?

This has happened to me so many times that I've lost track of the quantity and many of the anecdotes. Nowadays, I've come to the point of almost expecting the worst even out of things I know objectively should be good, because that shields me from damagingly high hopes.

But even trying to shield myself in the long run doesn't help with everything. Sometimes we just can't avoid feeling a bit of anticipation for a new experience, even without all the facts right before our eyes. Sometimes we're pleasantly surprised, sometimes not so much. Today was not so much.

Before I get to that, let me give you a bit of background. If you've read my blog over the last few months, you're likely to have heard some mention of my schooling in London. Being abroad in the city for a semester, I got my fill of a new type of education.

I was studying history in a foreign country, working not only with other students but within a completely different schooling system with expectations that in no way resembled those which are had by my home institution.

When I went into the experience, I wanted to have the opportunity to learn about British history firsthand - as in, from British professors. I took two British history courses, one class on British politics and one class that took my fellow students and I around to various London galleries to look at 19th and 20th century art.

Only one of my classes was taught by a British professor.

But that wasn't even the greatest disappointment. That was reserved for the fact that even though I was happy to learn about the subject matter, I couldn't get engaged. I lay blame for this issue partly on the dry lectures, but even moreso on the source material they drew from.

I realize there's a purpose for academic writing, but when it's all that you consult in your studies, how are you expected to foster any sort of honest appreciation for a subject? Maybe some people enjoy scholarly texts, but for me it only reduces my interest in a course to practically nothing.

Then this afternoon I walk into a class where the professor tells his students - prior to even mentioning what the course is actually about - that the purpose of it is to look at and assess those same scholarly texts that I just spent three hours wanting to escape from.

I kept looking around the room at everyone else to see if they showed any semblance of the anxiety that I was feeling. Within the first hour of class, the professor had already given us a short research assignment. I subtly mentioned to my partner for the assignment that I didn't know what this class entailed. She agreed and we both proceeded to look up other possible courses we could take.

Unlike me, though, she stayed for the rest of lecture. At least, I think she did.

I'm not ordinarily the type to walk out if I'm feeling dissatisfied or uneasy during a performance. After taking quite a few classes where I haven't been wholly thrilled by the lectures, I've learned to just grin and bear it in the same way I might if a movie is nothing like its trailer or if a play does nothing to resemble its poster (or does no justice to its positive critiques).

But I was not having it today, especially when it meant passing up the opportunity of being in another class that I knew wouldn't have me furtively glancing toward the door every few seconds.

So I did a terrible thing.

I walked out of a class without a word, bolting toward the door and not looking back to catch my professor's response, and I went to another class that actually aligned with my academic goals.

And unsurprisingly, I have no regrets.

Ordinarily I'm the type of person who hates those people who throw caution and decency to the wind to meet their necessary ends. Selfishness doesn't sit well with me. But today, I needed to be selfish lest I give up an entire quarter (and the money I spent on it) to a class that has nothing to do with my area of study.

In London I stuck with it because, despite everything, when I walked out my door I was in the most beautiful city in the world. That was enough.

But now I'm back home and off of cloud nine and I have to go back to looking out for my education - my limited time as a college student.

This evening I wrote a note to the professor of the class I walked out on apologizing for leaving without any notice. I felt terrible at having done so, even though I knew it was right.

I hope he doesn't despise me for it. I didn't mean it as an affront to his teaching. But sometimes, as rude as it may feel and seem, it's important to have your own interests in mind. Appearances aren't everything. At least not all the time. But you'll have to live with yourself and your decisions in the hours after you decide whether to walk out of that classroom or stay in it and miss the opportunity to take a better-suited class.

I'm glad I didn't have to live with myself having made the wrong decision.

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