Back to school was always the hardest time for me. I wanted to indulge in my world of make-believe where fictional characters lived right alongside my classmates. The rigorous line-up of subjects we needed to cover did not interest me. Instead I would drift away in my imagination and be scolded for not paying attention. I was painfully introverted and almost any interaction with, or in front of, my fellow students would make my cheeks burn with shame.
Being smart and shy, I was twice cursed, and every year I dreaded teachers who would see "potential" in me.
My one shining moment, oddly, was middle school. In middle school, I had two good friends. I had a job working in the library which allowed me endless access to books, and the wonderful librarian never scolded me for reading instead of working. I wasn't popular, but I didn't care. I wasn't a straight-A student, but in the grand tradition of middle school, the fact that I wasn't setting fire to things meant people more or less left me alone.
My dedication to mediocrity extended into college, where I chose the easier degree because it meant that I didn't need to stand in front of my classmates and allow my films to be critiqued.
The older I get, the fewer shits I give. I feel sometimes like if I could go back and do it all, knowing what I know now, I wouldn't be afraid to speak up in class and I wouldn't feel shame at criticism.
I recently decided to pursue a graduate degree. On the first day of class, old fears started to come back: What if I don't make friends? What if the teacher calls on me? What if I read all the material but forget everything when it's my turn to talk?
At 32 years old, I'm seeing old habits resurface. I am excited to read the material, but I am loath to participate in group discussions. I want to do well in the class but not so well that I stand out.
Naturally my plan to combat this involves alcohol. I think a well-timed glass of wine before my class will help me be brave enough to participate. As with all plans involving alcohol, this experiment could backfire, but it's worth a try. My next class is tomorrow, and I'm committed to being a good student, whatever it takes.
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