Yesterday was a particularly difficult day, which is all the more upsetting because the day before that was so very wonderful.
My class is in the process of studying film genre and the last two days have been all about the thriller. I have been mesmerised by the arrival of a new teacher who is able to bring Plato and Aristotle into a conversation about "The Bourne Identity." I have also felt deepest gratitude as he slowly and respectfully discussed the portrayal of women in thrillers, and I felt great joy as he hypothesised about the reasons that women are generally attracted to the genre.
But that was two days ago, and yesterday we had to break up into pairs and write our own 9-page thriller scene. We were given half an hour to work separately on our concept and general storyline, and an hour to discuss our ideas with each other and come up with one scene using a combination of the best aspects of both stories.
Easier said than done.
I was paired with a young, enthusiastic young man. Unfortunately, his enthusiasm was limited to his own work and not to the collaborative process. I had a feeling it would end badly when he didn't even turn up to our arranged meeting-place. By sheer luck I had his mobile number in my information brochure, so after wasting 15 minutes searching for him throughout the campus I called him and reminded him that we had to work together. He had settled himself at a computer in one of the small study rooms and had been busily typing away, actually writing the script, before we had even begun to discuss our story and plan.
I am a mature woman. I was not particularly enamoured with my own story, but I did think it had a few interesting elements. I hate conflict. I have years of experience working lovingly with young adults. But I consider this course of study I have undertaken to be my "Me Time," my time to talk and learn with other adults, NOT my time to patiently and painstakingly teach a young person about the realities of the collaborative experience.
After ascertaining that my partner was indeed intent on writing the script himself, had no interest in my ideas, and was eager to criticise both my working method and my typing speed (I type too fast apparently), I packed my bag and threatened to leave the room. As young adults are wont to do, he cunningly went in for the final kill at that moment, attempting to soothe me by telling me that he understood my heightened emotions, after all... I have so many family pressures, being an older woman and a mother, that it's no wonder I'm irrational.
I am proud to tell you that I did not scream, cry or storm out of the room at that moment. I actually stood my ground and forced myself to slowly...calmly...explain to him my particular point of view. To his credit (he was, I admit, looking a little scared) he said "I can see that you are angry," and he did begin to show a glimmer of comprehension. That glimmer was enough for me. We decided to take the pressure off for the moment, we wandered downstairs and grabbed a couple of coffees and sat in the sunshine on a bench. After a while, we returned to our notes and painstakingly re-navigated a small section of the scene. He apologised, I apologised and we returned to the classroom and explained to the teacher that we were not able to complete the entire assignment.
As luck (or bad luck) would have it, the other groups also returned with half-written scenes, so we will now be presenting our work on Sunday afternoon. This means that my little friend and I have to continue meeting and working together for the next two days.
I will now admit to you that I sobbed in a toilet cubicle after the class, and sobbed periodically throughout that evening. I know it's trivial, I know it's ridiculous and virtually meaningless in the scheme of things, but crying makes me feel better. I realised yesterday that I have invested my new course of study with far too much meaning, and that my tendency towards perfectionism is indeed a terrible handicap. I'm also fighting a very strong urge to call in sick on Sunday.