I often find myself in difficult situations, situations that frustrate me. I choose to do something simply because I want to, or I like the idea of it, regardless of whether I can do it well. Actually, most of the time, I’m probably not that good at it. But I want to do it, so I do. But, on the other hand, not being good at something makes me want to do it more to see if I can master it, and overcome the difficulty, winning over my frustration. Take this student blog for example: I really liked the idea of it, so I agreed to be a contributor. But, as my number of posts reveals, I am not too good at blogging regularly. When I don’t post for a while, I feel as though I’ve let the organizer down, and therefore put unnecessary pressure on myself to write, but the pressure also intimidates me. So blogs end up unwritten.
Special Ops is another situation similar to this blog; I really like the idea of it, but I am not good at it. Special Ops is a program at LLU where students go to a local high school every Friday afternoon to mentor at-risk high school students, so every Friday several other mentors and I carpool to San Gorgonio High School.
This last Friday at San G (that’s how savvy people refer to it) we broke up into small groups, with one mentor to three or four students. I don’t know if every mentor felt this way, but I felt that all of the most difficult kids to work with ended up in my group. They were the most distracting, most distracted, and most resistant. I do not have a dominating character, nor a dominating voice, so leading the discussion was very difficult.
I sat with them in a circle of desks, juggling their focuses. I would get one, only to let two others be thrown up into the air. And while occasionally they would answer one of my questions, which were actually meant to seed a discussion, they would usually state something random, or even tell me to be quiet. I couldn’t help but laugh, both at the difficulty of the situation and at the things they would say. I am glad I am going into medicine and not dentistry, because that discussion could be referred to as being “like pulling teeth,” and I don’t know if I could “pull teeth” like that every day.
While the discussion wasn’t as successful as intended, I can’t say it was a complete failure, either. These kids are smart; they’re just distracted; distracted by their peers and all the pressure they bring. Distracted by insecurities they try so hard to disguise. Distracted by differences and masking their misunderstandings with stereotypes. Distracted. It’s so hard to get them to focus, but that’s all they need. They gave good answers to the questions I posed, but refused to focus on the discussion, succumbing to the distractions instead of focusing through them. But at least I got answers from them. Good answers. But I only can see this in hindsight. I walked away from San G frustrated at my inability to connect with the kids the way the Special Ops leader can. But Special Ops is something I enjoy overall, and is something I want to do and am glad to be doing. So I look forward to the difficulties and frustrations of next Friday.