Tonight I stopped by a weekly conversational Spanish class that I used to go to a few years ago. The instructor told me that I used to speak well back then, but she remembered me being very nervous to open my mouth and try. I do remember that, too, actually, but I guess I never considered that other people could tell. Every time I felt that I might have to answer someone in Spanish, my heart would start pounding in my chest, and I would clam up and get really shy. Basically, my body would enter "fight or flight" mode. That was three years ago. I almost forgot how anxious I used to get!
It's funny how nonchalant I am about it now. I don't even get too bent out of shape when I can't understand someone. I'm not as embarrassed... but, then again, I understand most of what I hear anyway.
I wonder if I will experience a similar reaction to learning a new language. Will I become newly afraid and timid once I get to the cusp of a conversational level? Or will I have already gotten past the jitters once, so I won't have to again?
I remember quite painfully and vividly how awful it felt to realize that I was a basic and boring conversationalist. I wanted to say so much, and I couldn't! It is one of the worst feelings I've ever experienced. Conversely, finally reaching a level of meaningful expression that fosters meaningful relationships with wonderful people... well, that makes it all worth it. The moments in which I have been shockingly aware of my own mouth effortlessly spilling out foreign words in the right order, and of my own brain making instant connections to concepts without first converting to English... those have been some of the best of my life.
But it takes a lot of work and some special circumstances. Will I ever feel that way again? I hope so. It's addicting. Like piercings and tattoos, they say.