Tonight is our women's club Christmas party. I am looking forward to going and seeing the play that is being put on, to helping decorate the hall to look Christmassy and pretty, to sitting among women I am slowly coming to know. But, there is one aspect that has me shaking a bit in my boots. I have to speak. I have to read a story to 75 Vlaams-speaking women with a Beek dialect. I have to do this in Dutch. And though my Dutch continues to improve, though I USED to speak in front of groups of people daily as a teacher, though I have read and re-read the story, I am still a bit uncomfortable about it. Yet, it's a big challenge, and I feel good to be pushing myself to accomplish this. I think that once it is over, and the fear has subsided, I will be proud of myself for being successful in one more thing in life that scares me.
Since moving to Europe, I have lost a little piece of the woman I used to be. I have always been a bit shy and never someone flambuoyant, but I was also outgoing and secure when I spoke, even if in groups I got a case of the jitters. Here, the language issue most certainly detraccts those qualities from me. I now seem, even to myself, as a mussy, quiet schoolgirl hiding behind her sleeve, looking out and wanting to be part of the action, yet afraid to allow myself that luxury. And it is a luxury, being able to use your voice and words to portray a meaning, share a joke, understand, and be able to speak impulsively, say exactly what is on your mind. Though I speak Dutch regularly, and at a fairly high level for an expat, I'm still very insecure about using my words. Sometimes people don't understand me due to my accent. Some people are fearful that they won't understand, so they just don't listen and instead assume they can't understand me. Sometimes, I speak a bit too quietly due to my insecurity, which makes it even more difficult for people to understand, and sometimes I just get the sentence structure completely wrong, or throw in English words without thinking, or can't find the word I am looking for in my bag of brains sitting in my head. It isn't easy to speak another language.
But tonight, I am going to conquer my fear. I am going to stand up on stage, with a stage light on my face, and read a Christmas story about a kleine, grijze spin (a little, grey spider) to a group of women. Women who speak Dutch. Women who are after all, just women. And women who, hopefully, will be able to understand as I speak loudly and clearly into the microphone, who won't be fearful of my accent and miss the meaning the story portrays. Who won't be speaking among themselves and not listening as to distract me in my search for getting it right. And I will have my moment of fame. Because, in the end, once the spotlight has dimmed and I exit the stage, I will have accomplished yet another goal in this book of my life.
I'm looking forward to the party tonight.