Quick survey: in general, do you think life is better or worse as you get older?
Lately, I've been thinking about the blessings of experience. This week, I started teaching a Fundamentals of English class for the second time. Wow--what a difference! I am more prepared, more confident, feel like I can handle tangents or interruptions better, etc. I can think. My friend Carol mentioned to me yesterday that having expectations adjusted to the proper level helps a lot. She is completely right. Also, just going through all of it before helps a ton. I have a better grasp of the scope of the course, etc.
I had a discussion with my class today about how most people are afraid to speak in public. Many of my students agreed that that was their #1 fear. I told them that I get nervous with public speaking too, but that I can overcome that fear if I'm prepared. I showed them the huge binder of materials I put together in order to teach the class. With that, I am in good shape. But I KNOW that I can NEVER "wing it." Some people have that gift; not me. One of my students seemed surprised to hear that I didn't like public speaking. "You're a teacher after all!" she said with surprise. She's right. It is kind of bizarre, but true. To me, teaching a small-ish class is a lot different than speaking before a crowd of hundreds of people (which I, thankfully, have never had to do). But even in front of a small class, I can be a nervous wreck if I'm not sure what will come out of my mouth. And experience is so helpful in this regard. With experience, you know what to expect, are better prepared, and remember what has worked before. As I near 40, I sometimes think about what it would be like if I were younger again. And then I realize that I wouldn't want to go back. Because--for the most part--it seems to me that experience can be a blessing.