The Writer's Voice

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Back to School


Jutta Zapf

With 49 years of age I decided to go back to school and study. It was a decision being made through an inner feeling of "yes, I can do it.'

I enrolled in a two years full-time study course for a "Diploma of Applied Science" Community and Human Service.

I felt very optimistic and sure about myself doing it and when the first day at school started I started to wonder why the teacher spoke about " private times will not be possible during the studies, you can forget about little hobbies and outings. We expect you to use all your time to study, the course is very demanding and needs your full involvement."

I felt a little bit unsure if I had made the right decision but my optimism was stronger than the feeling. I told myself: " I got into this course for a reason , God wants me to do this work, so how could it be the wrong decision?"

Inside myself I heard this little voice " your command of the English language is not good enough, you have not learnt the things they do in Australia" and many other excuses. I must admit it was only nine years since I had migrated from Germany to Australia and had learnt the new language, but I still felt that I could do it.

Whenever I heard the other students talking about how hard the studies were and how they wished that they had not started.... whenever they asked me how I was going, I answered, "It is no problem for me, all of us are here for a reason and we will do it." And again, inside myself I heard this little voice; "It really is too hard, your English is not good enough, you better give up." Unfortunately or luckily I am a Taurus by star-sign, very determined and well.... stubborn. The due date of my first three assignments was only three weeks away and I had already finished them. The tutor in the library was on duties and I booked myself in for an appointment with her. 

Full of fear I took my assignments to her to have them checked for mistakes etc. It was the first time in my whole life that I had done an assignment like that and I had no idea what was expected of me. All the other students felt quite confident with their work because they had done this sort of assignments before. I was too shy or maybe to proud to ask them for help or advice and had it done the way I thought it would be right. The tutor read my assignment, found three minor mistakes and handed them back to me with the words; "they are very good and there is nothing wrong with them."

I felt like floating when I walked back to the classroom. When I handed my assignments in, I waited anxiously for them to be back in my envelope. They came back with very good remarks on them and I knew then that I was on the right track. I thanked God for giving me the strength to go on, even through doubts.

Throughout the year I learnt a lot about myself and how my childhood had affected my whole life. One assignment was a "Self History" and I must admit that it threw me back quite a bit. All the pain and the hurt was felt again and many tears were shed while I wrote about my life. I felt helpless but once again I thanked God for all the hurt and pain I had to experience in my life because they made me the person I was now. I felt such a strength in myself that I knew "I could do it."

During the school time I got to know many new people and we shared many tears , laughter , and fun in the class room. I became quite close friend with two other students and we spent a lot of time together. One student was very warm hearted, loving, caring and well spoken, the other one was on the rougher side. She used "hundreds" of swear words, wore the shortest mini skirts, sat there so that everyone could see everything and behaved rowdy and sometimes disturbed the whole class with her remarks. My other friend always said to her; "don't swear when Jutta is around, she never uses swear words and doesn't like them". So she did not swear when she was with us or when she accidently did, she apologized straight away to me.

It took me only a short time to find out that she was not the person she played so good. Inside herself was a very hurt and unloved "child." I saw a different person than she pretended to be and against all the bad looks or eyebrow raising of the others I was friends with her throughout the year. 

I found out that she was a very loving and caring person and I felt very sad when I saw the others look down at her because of her behavior. I must admit that she behaved very rough but well......everyone expected it of her. No one gave her a chance.

One day I told her that she did not have to pretend to be non-loving and non-caring and that I know how she really is. The disbelief and then the love in her eyes gave me the assurance that I was right. 

During the last three months at school we had group-work and we were in the same group. Eleven students who had to share very private feelings and thoughts during the sessions. The goal of our course was to understand other people's feelings without laughing about them. At the end of the course our last session was...... "to write about each person what we liked about them."

Each one of us had an envelope and everyone put the written note into it. At the end of the session we sat together and each one of us opened their own envelope.

To read how the others felt about you was very moving and I can tell that many tears were shed. They were tears of happiness about all the love each one of us felt in the words the others had send. We could share our words with the class, if we wanted too, and yes... quite a few wonderful words were read out. It was very moving to see how other people/students saw their fellow students and all of us felt very special.

For myself the best thing happened when the student, everyone looked at as being impossible, took the word and said, with tears in her eyes: "I thank Jutta for accepting me for who I am, without judging me and just for myself, with all my faults and with all my behavior, she accepted me for me as a person and I feel very honored to have her as my friend."

The whole class was quiet and some heads were lowered, some faces blushed and then all students applauded her.

For me it was one of the biggest gifts I could get and it gave me the assurance.... unconditional acceptance and unconditional love is the most wonderful present anyone can give to others.

It also made me realize that it was worth going on with the studies and no matter what others say, always do what feels right in my heart.

All I can say is, "Thank you God for the strength... Thank you God for for my friends ...and most of all ...Thank you God for letting me be me."

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