Terry Jacques recently phoned me at the Mirror office and asked if I would come and speak to the Campbell River Daybreak Rotary Club in February. I think that I gave an embarrassed laugh after a stunned pause. I know the words “but public speaking is my biggest fear” came out of my mouth. I also know that I said I would do it.
What I don’t know is whether this was the right thing to say. I questioned the wisdom of that decision as soon as I hung up the phone. And I will question it every day leading up to my presentation, every minute the morning of the presentation, likely during the presentation between shaky sentences and probably after the presentation too, when I sit down with a red face and a pounding heart.
I have never, ever liked public speaking. In fact, I think it’s safe to say I have absolutely hated it my whole life.
So why in the world did I say I would do this?
“Becoming a better public speaker” certainly wasn’t one of my new year’s resolutions (It probably should have been but I generally don’t make formal resolutions because I don’t want to set myself up for failure).
“Face your fears” wasn’t even a resolution (although, again, it probably should have been).
But as scary and painful as this is and will be, I knew I couldn’t say no.
Terry rides horses, and she had read an article in a horse magazine about The Ride Across Canada, a seven-month cross-country horseback ride to support veterans that I was part of this past year just before starting my new job at the Mirror. She told me she was really excited when she read my “welcome” story where I mentioned I had been part of the ride, and she wanted me to share my story with her Rotary club.
I got caught up in her excitement. It’s flattering to be asked to share my story (trust me, this happens very rarely … unfortunately, Terry’s Rotary club will soon find out why…) and there’s a rational piece of my brain that is excited for the chance to tell people about the ride and share some of my photos. I see this as suffering for the greater good, as it helps create awareness about the ride, about the charitable organization I volunteered with (the Communities for Veterans Foundation) and about the changing face of Canadian veterans and how we as communities can help veterans when they come home from battle or transition out of the military. It was such an incredible experience to be part of something so big that I want to share, I want to keep that going.
But there’s a bigger part of my brain that is just plain terrified and is having a hard time getting past that.
This battle inside my head between “I know it’s going to be OK, even if it is hard” and “I am so scared to be bad at something” is a pretty constant thing in my life. Maybe that’s why I’m so exhausted all of the time. But, even if I haven’t made it a formal resolution and I won’t actually write it down on paper because that means I am fully committed, I am trying to ignore the fear a bit more in 2016. I’m trying to be “a real, functioning adult” as I constantly joke (without laughing because, let’s face it, this is actually not that much of a joke – and feeling like you are not “a real, functioning adult” at 33 doesn’t feel that funny to me…). I want to be better at things like public speaking, and the logical side of me knows that the only way to get better at it is to do it. And then do it again. No matter how hard it is. So I’m trying.
Funny enough, the first thought that always comes to me in situations like this is the line “do one thing a day that scares you” that is on those Lululemon tote bags with all the writing on them. I’m not even sure they use those bags anymore since I can’t actually afford to shop at Lululemon. And I know there’s been some controversy over their see-through pants, and it’s probably not the best company to use as a model. But I really love those bags. They are reusable and quite handy, and whatever you think about the brand itself, those sayings are pretty inspiring. At least for me. I’ve probably had one of those bags for at least six years, and I actually think about that line about doing things that scare you quite often.
So, on Feb. 9, I’m going to do one thing that not only scares me, but absolutely terrifies me. I’m going to get up in front of a room full of people and talk. Out loud. Into a microphone even. I’ll probably even talk about myself, which is even more awful.
But it’s something I have to do. I have to tell people about The Ride Across Canada. And I have to take a step towards getting over my fear. I have to be “a real, functioning adult.” Or, at least work towards that.
I’ll have some sleepless nights between now and then. I might even throw up the morning of my presentation. But I know that ultimately, I’ll get through it and nothing bad will actually happen to me. Rotarians won’t start laughing at me and calling me names. They won’t cut my presentation short because I’m too dumb. In fact, they might even enjoy my presentation.