Over at Mother Talk they’ve declared today Fearless Friday in honor of Arianna Huffington’s new book On Becoming Fearless: …in Love, Work, and Life. The ladies are all talking about fearless moments in their life and it’s inspired me to talk about my fearless moment.
It’s actually quite timely that they would be having a Fearless Friday because on my way home from school on Wednesday I was thinking about how I didn’t used to be such a scaredy cat. When I was 18 I went off to college all by myself. Ok, so it’s not like I went far away. It was only 45 minutes from home, but I lived in the dorms with two other girls I had never met before.
When I was in high school I made plans to either live with Necole or Rachel. But by the time September rolled around neither Necole or Rachel were attending the same university so I had to go on my own.
Now I wasn’t at school very long. Only three weeks actually. But I didn’t drop out because I was scared. [There were other reasons I won't go in to now.] But in those three weeks I was on my own and making new friends. This was quite an accomplishment for me since I had spent most of my life as such a shy child. Finally, I was fearless.
But then as the years went on my anxieties increased. Now I don’t like to go to places I don’t know well. I obsess about all the things that can happen. When the parkade where I park at school is full, I have a mini anxiety attack because, oh my gosh, how will I ever find another place to park? And, as you know, I’m terrified to speak in front of groups.
Most people don’t fully understand my fear of public speaking [or parking or going to places unknown or having my channel on an odd number or....well you get the point]. My mom always tells me, “Everybody gets nervous. Just practice more. The more you practice the easier it gets.” No. No it doesn’t. In fact sometimes it’s worse. It just really depends on the day for me.
So Wednesday night I had a presentation at school. I joke about it, but it really is terrifying for me. I hardly slept the night before. I could feel the anxiety building all day long. It was raining that day so all the way to school I was thinking, “maybe one these cars on the interstate will spin out of control and hit me. Surely being in a car accident is a good excuse for missing the presentation.”
Once I got to school and got with my team I felt a little better. I have a great team this semester. The best team I’ve had in any of my classes since I’ve been back to school [this time]. But it still wasn’t enough to completely calm my nerves.
As I sat and waited for our first two team members to finish their part I eyeballed the door trying to determine how long it would take me to run to it and escape. Unfortunately I was on the complete opposite side of the room and I would have to hurdle over tables, peoples and possibly the podium to get to it. Surely somebody would tackle me and force me to present my part before I made it to the door.
Then I thought about the walk to the podium. Some genius decided to put the chairs on the other side of the room from the podium. This meant we had to walk the width of the room, directly in front of the projection screen to get to the podium. I had on heels. I hardly ever wear heels so it’s always hit and miss whether or not I’ll make it the whole day still standing or if I’ll end up flat on my butt. I was praying that I wouldn’t fall right in front of the class and the “experts” in the panel. I tried to come up with a snappy comeback in case I did fall. I decided to go with “this is why we aren’t worried that public transportation or walking will be much of a competitor to the Chevy Volt.”
Then it was my turn. I was so panic-stricken I could barely pull myself up out of the chair. But I took a deep breath, stood up and walked all the way over to the podium without falling. I stood at the podium and went through my slides. I had my speech memorized, but with my nerves I stumbled over my words a little. But I survived. I got the whole speech out and I even made eye contact with the crowd.
And then I was done. I walked back over to my chair without tripping over myself and sat down. My teammates whispered, “you did great” because like I told you this is the best group of kids I’ve ever worked with at the university. And like I said in my last post, I think our team was the best team [and I'm not just saying that because I'm part of the team].
As I drove home, I looked over at the dorm where I used to live…for three weeks…more than fifteen years ago, I thought about how fearless I used to be. And I thought “what if I had stayed in school? Would I not be the big pussy I am now?” Who knows? What I do know is I really, really, really did not want to give that speech, but I did it. I looked my fear in the eye and said “screw you.” Ok, maybe I wasn’t quite so aggressive with my fear. But I did it.
Baby steps, people. I’m getting there. Maybe by the time I’m 75 I’ll be able to give a speech without looking for the nearest exit. Of course by then there’d be no way I’d ever be able to hurdle tables and run for the door. Unless I get a rocket powered walker.