I worked very diligently to learn Russian when I was there.
When I returned to America, I studied Russian in college. But college had to take a backseat, and I didn’t have anyone to talk to.
So. It’s been more than 25 years since I had someone to speak Russian with.
But yesterday, I was swept into a party with Russian people. And they all spoke Russian. And I remembered that I could understand it, and I really wanted to be able to speak it again.
I did…Just enough for them to believe me that I knew a little bit. And my very fond dream came true:
A lovely woman said she would have tea and speak Russian with me.
One on one, that made it a lot more serious. I couldn’t just lurk. It was time to break out the declensions.
I was never good at the declensions.
But there we were, sipping tea from Lomonosov china, and I was stumbling around for words, verbs and prepositions to talk about my life.
My head felt like it was lifting something very heavy.
My tongue felt stiff and unwieldy.
That’s the word for “language” in Russian. Tongue. So I language and my tongue didn’t work.
I had put an obstacle in my way.
I’m very good with language. English.
I am very awkward with Russian.
I don’t even try with any other languages.
Russian is my language of choice to be bad at. And as I gave myself the hurdle of this language to try to talk about myself, I had to come to terms with the fact that i looked really stupid.
I couldn’t express a thought. Every single preposition was wrong.
Have you ever thought about prepositions? They are some of the hardest working words in any language. Where to, What for, beyond that and with whom are basic and necessary concepts I was grappling with.
Have I lost you already? i acknowledge, very few human being find grammar fun. Poets and linguists and not all of them.
That was not the point. After I said goodbye to my speaking partner, I was so happy to have achieved my long desire. I had found someone willing to speak Russian with me! And I was appallingly bad at it.
God bless her, she corrected all my endings. Not everyone has the patience to do that.
And as i walked the dog, I wondered what she thought of me. I stumbled through introducing myself and telling my story.
Did I sound like an idiot? Did my life make any sense?
These questions could have been appropriate even if I had used my native language.
But I realized as hard and humiliating as it was, it was worth it. All new endeavors require a willingness to be bad at what you are attempting.
This is the challenge I want to attempt. But any challenge I tried would have the same cost.
In order to get better at anything, I have to come to terms with the fact that I’m not as good as I’d like to be.
And I might even be a complete inept nincompoop.
It helps to come to terms with that on purpose. Because i stumble into ineptitude on accident all the time. Walking up to it intentionally is pretty badass.
I plan to make a point of being foolish in something for the rest of my life.