Joy in the Leap

“If we will jump, we just might have a beautiful ride which stretches out in front of us.  The ride might be better and more beautiful than we could ever have imagined.”

-Andrea Daggett, The Cross Eyed Blog

Over the weekend I was given the opportunity to face a long held fear head on, the fear of public speaking. A friend of mine invited me to speak to a group of her students. When my friend first broached the subject I must admit I was tempted to laugh thinking she must be joking. Much to my shock and dismay, she was serious. She really wanted me to speak to her students. Like for reals.

At that point I launched into an internal monologue hashing out all the reasons I shouldn’t say yes. What could I possibly offer this group of professionals/graduate students? After all, my main career for the last two decades has been taking care of my family and my professor friend is a well-traveled, sophisticated attorney teaching at a top-notch university. Would they listen to someone like me? Was there any value to my own experience? Could I stand in front of people and talk for an hour? Did I have to learn how to make a real Power Point, not just the one with all my inappropriate parenting outbursts? What would I wear? Is there enough deodorant in the world to keep me from knocking them over with my nerve-induced sweat stank?

Slowly, with the encouragement of my friend (definitely one of my Tribe’s cheerleaders), husband, and a few others, I accepted that deep down I kind of wanted to try it. Even admitting that was a huge step in the right direction, but it didn’t keep my fear/doubt/insecurity from rearing its ugly head as the weeks marched by bringing me closer to the fateful Saturday.

During the period between when she asked me to speak to her class and the Monday before the talk, I worked on what I would present. My friend was invaluable with her patient encouragement, confidence in her decision to invite me into her class, input into my presentation and her computer graphic skills. Even as we worked and I became more comfortable with my presentation, the fear was lurking just below the surface. It was my constant companion. Many, many times I was tempted to call it off – but the still small voice inside me told me not to.

Fast forward to last Monday. I was getting ready to turn out my light when I decided to check Facebook one last time. Right there in my feed was the courage I so desperately needed. My precious friend and fellow blogger, Andrea Daggett, posts every Monday. The quote at the top of this entry is from her blog that Monday evening. The title of her post: Faith Over Fear. Little did she know how timely that post was for me. As I read through the wise words of my friend, I felt a wave of peace flow over me – and a new fear. The fear of regret. How much regret would I walk around with if I didn’t take advantage of the incredible opportunity that had been placed in my path?

I had a choice to make. I could choose which fear would have more power over my situation. The fear of not being good enough, or the fear of wasted opportunity? Thankfully I chose the latter. I resolved myself in that moment to march bravely toward my personal Goliath – the lectern.

As the week progressed, I met with my friend to hash out the final details of my presentation, made my speaking outline and asked a select few friends to pray for me. Saturday morning I woke up with a feeling of nervous excitement in my gut. I drank enough coffee to keep an infantry platoon on high alert, did a wardrobe check with my son, grabbed my professional looking portfolio and headed out the door.

I was greeted outside the building with a warm hug and smile from my professor friend and then she escorted me into the classroom. I sat in the room as the students finished up an exercise and waited for my turn. As I sat there listening to the students discuss a video, I began to feel a little more comfortable. These were not staid, serious students, but real people, with real life experience. They weren’t all that different from me. And they were people that might actually benefit in some way from my own real life experience.

Needless to say it was eventually my turn. Honestly, a lot of it is a blur because I became totally lost in the moment. The longer I talked, the more comfortable I felt. And the more comfortable I felt, the more engaged the students were. I even got a few laughs along the way. Even more surprising to me is that I was having fun! By the end of the session it became clear that at least a couple of them would walk away having benefitted from what I had shared. And I had conquered a fear; one that had dogged me my entire life. It was a beautiful experience. I shudder now to think that it is one I almost denied myself due to fear.

As my friend walked me back to the building’s entrance, I was heartened to hear that she was pleased with my presentation. I had been afraid she would regret my participation in her class, but the opposite was true. I could ask for nothing more than that. Of course, I have a feeling my Cheerleading friend knew it would be ok all along. (She’s great for my self-confidence.) To my benefit, she also knows me well enough to know when I need to be pushed a little. Or a lot.

I walked away on Saturday morning full of joy. And not just because it was finally over, but also because I found out I may have a knack for the whole talking in front of people thing. Admittedly, I have a lot of growing to do as a speaker, but Saturday was a huge step in an exciting new direction. Not only did it provide me with a positive experience, it also amplified the part of me that yearns to do more in that arena. I’ve realized it’s yet another outlet to allow me to use my voice and experience to help others.

So, if you need a nervous, awkward lecturer, hit me up. It may not be the best thing you’ve ever done, but it might not be the worst either.

****For those of you not fortunate enough to already read my friend Andrea’s blog, here’s a handy dandy link to the post I quoted from at the top of this week’s blog Once you’re there, poke around a bit. It’s chockfull of good stuff.****

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