It is story time. This past week was (and is continuing to be) quite an adventure for me in terms of this story, actually.
So. Picture it being last Friday and me being in my last class of the whole week, Econometrics. I’d call this class and professor my second-favorites in their respective categories (right behind Differential Equations and Professor Javor because who can beat math?). The kid who was sitting right in front of me turned around when class ended and asked me if I was in a study group.
(Key info: the professor allows and even encourages us to do the homework in groups, as long as all the members of a group hand in separate homework sheets.)
I was neither in nor interested in a group so I was honest and told him that no, I didn’t have a study group (internal monologue: I am not in a study group and there’s a reason for that). This was probably not the wisest way to answer, because he took it as an immediate “yes” to joining his group—which seemed to include only him at that point.
He told me that we should be a study group and opened up his phone to show me all of his numerous messaging applications, and told me to pick one of them to use. I was in a slight state of shock (read: wildly taken aback and speechless) because of how fast our new friendship had progressed (internal monologue: who are you? why are you talking to me? what is happening???).
Introverts do not take well to being apprehended by strangers telling them that they were going to be forced into group work. I dislike small talk with people I hardly know. I dislike group work—it’s ineffective and tedious and frustrating. And I dislike being told what to do.
But. This does not change the fact that I was speechless and in shock and hardly able to defend myself so I just went along with what this guy was saying. I picked a random app, downloaded it, and we were in contact—past the point of no return (internal monologue: now I can’t escape…now he knows that I will receive any attempts at contact and I will be unable to hide). All the while, I was pointedly glancing at the door and the professor in the hopes that someone would either magically show up to rescue me or that he would get the hint that I wanted to leave ASAP. He told me we could use the app to compare schedules and meet up sometime during the weekend (internal monologue: no please no anything but that). And then he left.
The desire to lock myself in my room for the rest of forever was very very strong at this point. However, introversion is not the main point of this story. The point is that I struggle with telling people “no.”
At any point during that conversation, I could have (and should have) told this kid that (1) I work better on my own, (2) I didn’t want to be in a study group, (3) I didn’t want this app, (4) I didn’t know who on earth he was, or (5) I had to leave. All true. And all of these thoughts stayed inside my head because I was afraid of coming across as rude to this stranger. I didn’t want to seem selfish or insult him or leave the poor guy out to dry. I’m kicking myself for not speaking up because by the time I got around to saying anything, he wouldn’t have it.
I decided to just pretend the app didn’t exist and try to avoid contact for a while. I may or may not have “accidentally” turned off notifications from the app (you can laugh, but you know me: when it comes to fight-or-flight, I’m off running before the conflict gets close to developing). I made it through Monday’s class without having any forced conversation, but I was so incredibly on edge (partially from guilt and partially out of fear of the next encounter) that I decided that evening to take daring action and approach him at the next opportunity. (It’s worth mentioning here that I was strongly encouraged by my dear friends to take action, so I owe them a bit on this one for making me realize that fleeing wouldn’t be a very effective idea.)
After Wednesday’s class, I actually initiated contact (a huge step for me) and told him that I hadn’t heard from him but maybe it would be preferable if we worked on our own. I explained that I worked better by myself.
This seemed to trigger something in him because he immediately asked me how I did on the first homework assignment. I told him how I did (I got an 41 out of 50 and I was very proud because that homework took at least 6 hours to finish, and I worked my bum off to do it to the best of my ability). And do you know what he said to that? He told me that he got a 47 and therefore I needed to work with him on this homework. (Internal monologue contains language not suitable for publication on this site.)
At that point, I no longer felt guilty for not wanting to work with him.
The kid was so persistent about finding a time to meet together and work on the assignment, but I was stronger. I continued to tell him that I would rather work on my own and that I was too busy to work with someone else. (I even got to use my favorite excuse of throwing Mom and Dad under the bus by mentioning that my family was visiting this weekend—perfect timing, guys, so thank you.) I was adamant. He finally was satisfied with saying that we could compare our results when we both finished, and if either of us got lost, we could ask the other.
I have another friend in a different class who I have exchanged email addresses with (and email addresses alone), and this is an acceptable method of communication to me. For Sun (that’s the friend) and I, the email system works perfectly. My goal for tomorrow is to transition to this phase with Mr. Persistent.
I don’t mind having someone I can talk to when I’m confused, and I’m willing to be that person for someone else. But I am going to do it on my own terms. I am going to stand up for what is best for me and for my grades. I am going to say no.
This is something that I’m hoping I can learn from. Assertiveness is not my strongest quality, and I have been presented with an opportunity to work out the assertion muscles.
Needless to say, there will be an update on this [rather lengthy and rather angsty—sorry] story after tomorrow!
I love you all lots and I’m looking forward to seeing you soon!