Many moons ago, when I was in grad school, I applied for a graduate assistant position to pay my tuition and books. The choices were a teaching assistant or a research assistant (I had no desire to work with rats! Yuck!). I chose to apply for the teaching assistant, and thought I would just be grading papers. No problem! I met with the two professors that I would be helping and they each gave me a list of dates that they would not be in town and I would be expected to cover the lecture. WHAT?!?!? This is not what I signed up for! I am supposed to grade papers! I don’t like rats, but they had to better than….students! Let me be very clear – I would get physically ill when I had to talk in front of others. I did not like talking with a group of friends of more than 3 or 4. I was best one on one, and even then, I was not always comfortable. Now, I was facing having to get up in front of a classroom of 150 students. How was I going to do this? I was terrified!! Really, terrified. I did not sleep, I could not eat. How could I do this? I went to the Chair of my department and begged her to let me switch to research. She was very patient and said “you can do this”, again and again. She was also very clear that I could not switch.
As terrified as I was, I got up in front of the class on that first day and did it. My hands were sweating, my stomach was a knot, I felt like was going to puke or pass out, or both. I was terrible. Really, I was horrible. I am grateful to the students that did not get up and walk out. I read the overheads (this was in the dark ages before powerpoint). Then I was out of there. This went on 6-8 times each semester that year. I was still terrible. I did this for 3 years, getting a little more comfortable each time, but I was still awful.
The 4th year, I was working for another professor, and the class size was now 300 students. One day, my professor called me at home to tell me that she had laryngitis and I would need to cover for her. She would meet me at the office with the overheads and we could review them on the way to class. Really?? I don’t even know what I am to cover today? I did it. I lectured to a class of 300 students on less than an hours’ notice and 10 minutes to review the overheads as I walked to class. This was the stuff of nightmares, and I did it. Not well, mind you, but I did it. That day, I decided that I could anything.
In the years since then, I have led spiritual retreats, volunteered (yes, I volunteered!) for a trainer position at my job, led multiple small groups and am now a lecturer at the university level. In fact, I am now colleagues with the two professors that I first worked for. I have found that I love to teach, and lead groups, and that I am even good at it now. Who knew? Had I not faced my fear in grad school, if the chair of my department had let me run away, I most certainly would not be where I am today.
Now, I am launching into a new fear; putting myself out there. This blog is challenging and scary for me. Blogs are different than teaching a set curriculum, or facilitating a small group. In those settings, there is the personal interaction, the feedback from others. I can gauge what is working and what is not, I can try something different on the fly. I am an introvert, and I prefer to be anonymous. I would rather no one notice me. Writing a blog is all about putting yourself out there, for…anyone….to….see. I have spent my life trying to hide in the shadows. It is scary, very scary. I want to have each thing I write to be perfect. I struggle with what to write, will people really want to read it? I have written and discarded four posts so far today. I have fussed at myself for not liking what I write. I have patted myself on the back for actually trying. I have played with graphics and other distracting things to avoid writing. Mercy!
This quote by Eleanor Roosevelt are wise words! By doing something that scares us, we are facing a fear, we are pushing our boundaries and we are learning how to grow. Even if we fail, we learn. I do believe that there are no mistakes, only opportunities for growth. My challenge to myself is to follow this wise advice from Eleanor Roosevelt. Today I am sharing this post. See?? That didn’t hurt… (too much 😉. Maybe tomorrow, I will share another post….
Are you ready to accept the challenge? What will you do today that scares you?