Wednesday, August 30, 2017

First Day of School (translation): Let's pick on the introvert....

Being a shy introvert for the better part of my life, many of my school memories are not all that pleasant.

I dreaded the first day of school, and not just because it was school and it was more work than fun. It was mostly because of what the teachers often did to me (albeit unintentionally) those first days of school…

Teacher (usually the kind that hasn't been teaching for 20+ years) walks in with a big happy grin, “Since it’s a new year and we’ve got a bunch of new faces, I thought it would be a great idea if we played the “Getting to Know You” game!” Teacher looks around with grin still plastered in place. My guess is she's hoping for applause or some kind of shout for joy, but at least half the class is sinking lower in their seats.

My mind traitorously dredges up all my previous "getting to know you" experiences from the deep place I've tried to bury them. Well here’s to another year where I’m known as “barf girl”...

I didn’t always turn green. Sometimes I just peed my pants. Honestly, I preferred “barf girl”.

Junior High quickly became the bane of my existence when I had to repeat this same scenario 6 or 7 times the first day.

By eighth grade I’d learned the hard way the best place to sit to avoid further opportunities of torture throughout the year:

  1. Never sit in the back because the teacher knew the people who sat in the back didn’t want to be called on, which meant they would always be called on. 
  2. Never in the front because then you looked like someone who was anxious to be called on. 
  3. Never dead center because it was too easy for the teacher’s eyes to pause there and call on you. 
  4. The best place was somewhere left or right of the center, but not too close to the edge seat. This way you could scrunch down and dodge behind the person sitting in any direction when the teacher started looking for people to call on. This was especially helpful if you could find a girl with really big hair and position yourself directly behind her—for those of you millennials, in the late 80’s early 90’s it was actually possible to be completely blocked by the hair of the person in front of you, sometimes even in a 360° radius. Not kidding.

Nothing has changed much in my adult years. I still turn green and feel like vomiting whenever it’s time to introduce myself, and I still inadvertently find myself looking for ladies with big hair to hide behind in any situation where I could be called on. On the rare occasions I do feel compelled to raise my stupid hand and open my stupid mouth, both my heart and my sweat glands decide I’m in the middle of a 5k. It neither looks or smells pretty. Although, I have learned which deodorants work better than others, never to believe anything that says it completely removes sweat rings, and that of all the things I’ve tried, nursing pads and waterproof electrical tape work better than any product out there (you can figure out the details of that one on your own).

So, why do I put myself through the torture of teaching gospel and writing classes, going to launch parties, and attending book signings?

Surprisingly, (sans vomit and sweat), there are aspects of it I enjoy. Something I never would have believed possible the first day of 7th grade.

We rarely discover what we are capable of until we do the things that scare us stupid. Seriously. The first few times I stood in front of crowd or sat at a table to sign books, my mind would go completely blank if I made eye contact with anyone. But in my scared stupid moments, I learned some valuable lessons I don’t think I would have learned any other way...

  1. I learned to laugh at myself and have fun. I learned that the best way to dispel my own awkwardness was to be my own goofy self—which meant many people have probably thought I escaped a mental hospital, but I discovered--oddly enough--that I'm okay with that.
  2. I learned that usually the way through to someone isn’t by my impressive speaking skills (that I seriously do NOT have). The best way to teach is not to worry about what the learner thinks of you as a teacher, but rather to love those you teach, and care only about the message you are trying to convey and seeking the right kind of influence to teach from. If someone likes what I teach or write, it’s because I’ve been genuine, I’ve been myself. When my words reflect that, the listener/reader can relate to me or my character as another normal human being with flaws and imperfections who is honestly trying. It’s most definitely not because I am actually impressive.
  3. I actually like people, despite how much they terrify me, and I like giving them hope. Whether it’s the hope that even an introverted “barf girl” can find a way to achieve her dreams, or a mom with two kids, general anxiety and depression, can find light in the darkness and courage to follow the road to become whoever it is she’s supposed to become despite the challenges of life. 
  4. Nursing pads are far more useful than I ever could have imagined, much better than walking around like a robot who can't raise their arms out of typing position. And electrical tape residue washes out better than duct tape.

Bottom line?

I love people. I love writing. I love teaching. If that means my face is a little green and my armpits, back, and hair are a little (or sometimes a lot) wet. So be it.

Dreams are worth sweating and turning green over.

Do something today that scares you. 
You never know what amazing things will happen…