Thank you to everyone who’s read my Guardian piece, commented (here or there), shared the link, and followed my Twitter or this blog directly. It’s been astonishing and somewhat overwhelming — one of the worst feelings of depression, for me, is that of feeling useless and also isolated, so knowing that I wrote something that clearly resonates and is of interest to so many people is a very… strange… sort of feeling. I’m humbled by the kind words people have shared with me.
For me, also, being depressed means spending a lot of time dreading an onslaught of negative feelings. This results in my brain even trying to scurry away from positive experiences or feelings sometimes: both because I don’t trust them (things will go back to being awful soon and won’t I feel bitterly naive for having dared to think things might be different?) and because… feelings! Stop! We can’t have this! They’re scary!
I really want to be having conversations with other people who are depressed and trying to learn languages. The difficult thing, of course, is that often depression makes communication and connection tricky or even impossible. (This might be a veiled apology for being slow to respond to comments… if I can respond to them at all, I mean.) But of course, with impeccable timing, my depression decided to dig its heels in a bit pretty much right as the Guardian article went up.
Focusing on reading the news has been proving a good distraction: unpicking grammar, looking up key new words (hat tip to the lovely German is easy! blog for today’s), trying to parse sarcasm or metaphors or slang. And it’s a good example of little-and-often study having discernible results: when every newspaper is writing about Pegida or Charlie Hebdo, it’s very easy to absorb new vocabulary.
Anyway — I’ve also been thinking about study spaces. It’s winter here in London, and I’m craving coziness and physical comfort, which I think translates into me thinking about arrangements of domestic space in general.
I have a small table in the corner of my living room that, in theory, is mostly kept clear for studying. And when it is, it can be a good place to go sit and go through textbooks and handwritten notes. However, when I have my laundry hanging up, I can’t sit there, because the drying rack has to go right next to the radiator (or window: depending if I’m relying on the boiler or the sun/wind at any given time), and when that happens, there’s no room to pull out the chair.
My desk, where my computer is, is a bit too small to do a lot of textbook-wrangling while I look up stuff online (especially if I haven’t cleared it off in a while…), never mind actually pulling out a notebook to write.
So I end up curling up in the armchair (cozy, at least — it’s next to the radiator) or on the couch, notebook balanced on my knees, papers or textbooks or magazines spilling out around me. It’s not the easiest way to work, and let’s face it, armchairs and couches are not exactly conducive to staying awake.
I’d like a table that I kept clear, with decent storage/organization so that books and papers don’t just spread over the whole thing in a random order. Really, what I want is a study station that looks like it came off of Pinterest, but I’d settle for not having to choose whether to hang laundry or study!
It’s not impossible to do work in a subpar space, of course, but it’s more difficult. And when you’re depressed, sometimes the slightest “more difficult” setting means that something doesn’t get done. (And of course again, rearranging one’s workspace to work better for you can be difficult or impossible in the throes of depression! What a conundrum…)
So, yes, you can muddle along in inconvenient spaces with minimal resources, but the nice-to-haves can also make a real difference, in terms of motivation and enjoyment, if you can afford them. I find it so hard to shake off a sense of guilt about that, though! If I were really a dedicated language-learner, I’d be so passionate about it, I wouldn’t need silly props like nice pens, right?
For me, of course, the danger also lies in delaying studying until I have the right stationery/the right desk organizers/the right layout (or the right textbook, of course). But the right resources are the ones you use — it does me no good to buy a new cute notebook if it still doesn’t get me to study, and the old crappy free notebook I got from work is just fine when I end up filling the pages with notes from italki sessions.
What kind of study area do you have? Are you lucky enough to have enough space and the freedom to arrange it how you need to? If not, what compromises do you make? What would you like it to be like? How does it facilitate studying or make it more difficult? I’d love to see photos, if anyone wanted to share!