Day 1/ Semester 2: A Profound Shift

Off we go! Semester 2 of Mandarin classes started today!

Today was the start of my Chinese 102 class.

I was nervous last night.  I did not practice like I wanted to over the summer.  I did begin reviewing my Chinese notes in the last two weeks, using both my son’s kindergarten flashcards and my own Chinese 101 flashcards.  And, of course, there was my jump into the deep end on The First Day of Chinese School, but I know myself, and I felt very unsure coming into day 1, semester 2.

But, you know, I’m a student who knows how to “student,” so I went to class, even though I felt like a super imposter, even though I had all the same worries as last semester (except now my picture has appeared on the campus website so people recognize me more, which makes me feel even more awkward), even though it was hard.

It also did not help that there are people in the class who: 1) are fluent Mandarin speakers; 2) have taken 3 years of Mandarin in high school; 3) clearly remember more of Chinese 101 than I do.

For reals though, I am 40 years old, and I am still comparing myself to 19 year olds in an undergraduate class (and LOSING in that comparison).

It kinda makes me laugh thinking about it.

I am grateful that I am not 18 or 19 or 21 (even though those are all great ages), and I’m grateful that this semester I’m in a class in which (even though I’m less comfortable) I feel like I’m going to practice speaking a lot more.  This class is pushing me WAY out of my comfort zone, but that is how we grow.

And continue to develop empathy.

The other thing I realized today (and somewhat on Sunday at my son’s Chinese school too) is that I actually do know some Mandarin.  (I actually teared up writing that sentence.)

Getting back a sense of my heritage language is profoundly empowering.

I am shifting in other ways too.

Tonight, while I did some Chinese homework and responded to some discussion board posts, for my own course, I also spent an hour watching videos and reading with my little girl.  The book we are reading, Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen by my friend, Debbi Michiko Florence, about a Japanese American 8-year old little girl in Los Angeles and her desire to help make mochi for New Years, is the kind of Asian American young reader novel I only could have dreamed of as a little girl.  It is the first week of the semester. I still have more work to do (when is there ever not work to do?), and I took time to be with my girl. And earlier today, I took time to drive my son home from school and talk with him about our respective classes.

In reclaiming my language and my time, I am also acknowledging all of who I am, reclaiming growing up in Canyon Country (because there’s so much about my growing up that I’ve tried hard to forget), acknowledging that it’s hard not to do all the things, learning (slowly) to say no more and yes less.

I am grateful for it all. I am grateful to be present to this shift.  I am so, so grateful for the many amazing people in my life who are with me now, have been with me through all the things, and who witness this journey.

I am always becoming, but I feel, for the first time, like I am actually arriving.  At a moment. At a station.  At a place to rest.

And I am so grateful.

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