As I sat there in the front row, literally one step away from the stage, my fingers fidgeted with the folded up piece of copy paper. I looked over at my friend as she twirled her pen with one hand and a lock of hair with the other. We were preparing to perform the very vulnerable task of sharing our original poems with an audience of mostly complete strangers. I had spent all day fretting over this moment that was about to happen, even while I was at work at the local hospital.
A coworker asked me how I was feeling, and I replied, “Freaked out, terrified!” I explained that I was about to conquer one of my greatest childhood fears, reading in front of an audience. You see, growing up I was a very slow reader and often I would be chosen to read in front of the class, a task that was not only daunting, but mortifying. I wasn’t dyslexic. I didn’t have any learning disabilities that I knew of. I just wasn’t a very skilled reader. I was such a slow reader I would have to lug home all my text books in order to get any of the class work done. That meant, not only was I doing homework, but the work that was intended to be done in class as well.
Back at the coffee shop 25 years later my knuckles are turning white from making tight, nervous fists. I get up to use the bathroom again, thanks to my nervous bladder. I see my tiny folded up poem almost slip from my pocket into the toilet but catch it just as it’s about to make it’s final dive to the great unknown. It occurs to me at that moment, ‘I’m going to open with this, and once I laugh I think I’ll be okay.’ People always tell me I have an infectious laugh, so I thought I’d just lighten the mood.
Finally the emcee announces that it is my turn. I take that one tiny step to the stage, grab the music stand, which will mainly act as a stabilizing device as my knees shake beneath me. In the other hand I grab the mic. This is my moment to prove my bullies wrong. “Hi, my name is Chelsea, and I’m going to share a poem I wrote, which I almost just dropped in that toilet right back there!” Laughter filled the room. A small bit of relief came over me. I started, and I could tell I sounded just like my elementary school self stumbling over each word, but by the fourth line something extraordinary happened. I looked up to see that the crowd was rooting me on with their encouraging smiles. Wow! It was no longer children laughing and pointing, but people of all ages and races smiling, giving me a thumbs up, and gasping as I read the last line, “she now knew she was mighty.” I did. I knew I was mighty. I was mighty enough to conquer my fear, and not only that, do it better next time, show fear who is boss.
I’ve heard it said that everyday you should do something that scares you. This was one of those things, and it felt so good to laugh about it afterward with complete strangers outside my favorite coffee shop last Thursday night.
I hope my story inspires you to conquer your fear, whatever it might be. Share it with me by clicking on “reply” at the top of this post, and share this post with others in your life that have a fear to conquer. You definitely know someone.