Lessons From The Halfway Mark Language, Life and Growth

Sophia Zhu ‘18
Opinions Editor

The end of academic year is always a good season for reminiscence and reflection. For me, half of my college life has just passed, but it is still hard to conclude the real lessons I’ve learned from all these experiences. After all, the things we’ve gone through, the decisions we’ve made and even the mistakes we’ve made have some meaning that won’t reveal itself until many years later.

As an English learner who has never lived in an English environment before coming to Smith, I have more than once described to my family that my life outside of my dorm room is like a battlefield. Everyday speech is not easy, making friends is stressful and classroom discussion is exhausting. Language is a personal thing, and because it’s personal, you don’t know how others think of you when you are talking, and others don’t know how stressed you are either.

It had been especially difficult for me since I used to stay alert to others’ opinions about me and hate to let others down. Now, due to the language barrier, there is no way for me to show others who I really am. Nor could I discern others’ feelings about me. So when I first came to Smith, I was so worried that I looked stupid and stiff to people around me because I was inarticulate. Language loomed so large in my life that I thought of it as the number one obstacle – even tougher than the transition to becoming a first-year Smithie.

But now I would rank it as the greatest achievement in my first two years, not because my English is better now, but because I’ve learned to treat life differently. We were often told life is a one way path – every decision you make can change your life, and there is no turning back. So we are frightened about making the wrong choice or stepping into some traps when trying new things. This is what I thought at first, but fortunately, my experiences have taught me otherwise: life always starts anew.

The most effective method I sought to conquer the setbacks on my way to improve my English is to bend my right hand to make a finger gun, and point it to myself each time I felt embarrassed. A finger gun let the negative feelings die with my old shell that I outgrew. After a fake gunshot, I would carry on with refilled courage and a renewed soul, to face a world that doesn’t know and probably won’t care much about people’s inner feelings.

I believe there are many instances in your life that can make you feel as though you cannot stand to be in that situation for one more second – but you made it through! You made it through because you’ve always gotten a second chance. My friends won’t always remember the times when I couldn’t recall a word, so that one day I could talk to them freely. My professors pardoned me for writing unsatisfying papers, so that I could improve my writing in draft after draft. I used to take everything as my last chance and it turned out that the only thing the stress could do is fail me.

Only when I began learning to treat life like a game did I become an adventurer, an explorer. I started paying more attention to myself rather than guessing about others’ opinions about me. What is important now is whether you can seize this second chance. So please be grateful and don’t take it for granted. If you fail on one level of the game, just start again. But as the main character of that game, you’ve got to play it seriously.

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