Staring at the approximately three-quarter inch square tiles in the girls’ bathroom at Darrough Chapel School, wiping my mouth with the neatly folded tissue paper, I had a sinking feeling in my now-empty stomach. Once again, when supposed to stand in front of the class for a book report, I ended up running for the girls’ room out of over-anxiety and fear of standing up in front of my peers.
Fast forward a few years later, to freshman year in Mrs Karavitis’ speech class. Standing in front of the class, filled with intimidating upperclassmen, I squawked out a speech without looking at anyone, but I did manage to stay in the room.
I knew from my parents that public speaking was important, and that was why I was already in this class as a freshman. Despite my fears and anxiety, I pretty much knew that if I wanted to do most interesting jobs, I would have to be able to speak to a group without running away. More than just staying in the room, I had to be able to look out at people, make a connection, and either convince or educate them.
I really hated to do it though. From a mixture of terrible self-esteem and shyness, standing in front of a group of my peers was a form of torture.
Last night, in Hangzhou Bay China, I thought back on those moments and was so proud of my perseverance in overcoming that fear. In that moment, I also was nervous and anxious, but through practice and skill-development, I knew that I could channel my nerves and anxiety to help me to reach people better.
And I knew that I was doing something that I loved, teaching, sharing knowledge I have gained, to help others in their professional, and maybe even personal, lives.
It took many years to get here. It took a lot of practice, as there is something to be said for Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule. And it really helped to have my dear colleagues in the first row, smiling up at me and believing in me.