My goal for the first 90 days is to learn to speak Italian. A few days ago I kept feeling I was going to fail at it. I was spending time on other activities, besides studying or speaking. I went walking. I took long lunches. I played computer games. It seemed like I wasn’t taking this mission seriously and I would have nothing to show for my three months in Italy. Which also meant I would fail at Japanese and German (of course). And the rest of my life really (just a logical conclusion).
Then I realized I’d only been here for three nights. I had to catch up on sleep, fight jet lag, find an ATM, a grocery store, a cell phone plan, and a library card (of course). So I told myself to chill. Just allow enough fear to motivate me to focus.
Because I do have to watch out. Time is a strange thing. At the beginning 90 days seems like a huge amount of time. Plenty to get lots of things done. But at the end it will feel like it flew by. I’ll be wondering why I didn’t accomplish more, and what I spent the time on.
I know it helps to align my study schedule to my energy levels throughout the day. I used to know when I worked best, but jet lag threw that off. Now I can’t even predict when I’m going to be awake, much less when I’ll have energy to study. Finding the library has been very helpful. I can at least go there right after getting breakfast and spend an hour studying. As I write it, that doesn’t seem like much. Maybe I’ll start going twice a day.
I’m committed to practicing my vocabulary words daily, usually before lunch. They’re on an app on my phone, so I can review them anywhere I am, whenever I’m ready. And I start every conversation in Italian, even if I use English to finish it. Right now it’s mostly with waiters at restaurants and coffee shops. But I’m starting to talk to strangers too.
Knowing I told so many people about my goal helps as well. I feel like everyone is expecting me to succeed. Whether I succeed or fail I want to be able to say I did everything in my control.
It’s good to have a goal. It’s OK to be afraid of failure. The goal wouldn’t mean as much if success were guaranteed. It’s OK to be hard enough on myself to make sure I keep heading toward the goal. And it’s OK to be easy enough on myself that I enjoy the journey. Just having a goal at all means I’ll get farther along than if I didn’t have one.
Now that I’ve been at it a week I think I’m going to make real significant progress at Italian. But even if I don’t, I’m loving the experience so much that I have already decided the trip is a success.
Plus, I can always tell everyone I’m fluent in Italian and then fake it.
Next month I get to start worrying about Japanese.