By Liz, outside of Hartford
Last week, I missed my train to New York because of a spider. I’ll tell you why that’s meaningful in a moment, but first, indulge me.
I was leaving for an 8:43 train out of New Haven to Penn Station, which was uber-convenient, since my meetings were in One Penn Plaza. Which meant I didn’t even have to go outside if I didn’t want to. Now, granted, I was already a little behind by about five to seven minutes, and nearly out of gas, because I haven’t yet learned the procrastination lessons I wrote about a couple months ago. But since I drive fast, I’m confident I would’ve made it as long as traffic was on my side.
So I finally grabbed my ginormous bag, my coffee, my smoothie and my hard-boiled egg and opened the front door. And had a meltdown. There was a HUGE, FAT, FURRY, (did I mention HUGE?) spider on the front door, facing outside. I mean, it was hideous. Not as bad as the snake in the car, granted (I’ll tell that one another time) but still nasty. And I didn’t want to walk by it. I might’ve cried. Then I slammed the front door shut and willed it to leave. Meanwhile, a second, smaller spider had also come to visit. He met the bottom of my shoe. But I was stuck.
By the time I gained the courage to open the door again, the spider was gone. I was free to go, no longer a hostage. But I couldn’t drive quite fast enough, and I missed my train.
Why am I writing a blog post about this? No, it’s not to humiliate myself. It made me think about facing fears. But more so, it made me think about the missed opportunities that come with not facing them head-on, in a timely fashion, like the brave warrior I know I can be.
Aside from hairy spiders, one of my biggest fears is public speaking. It’s a terror that has dogged me throughout my life – in my first speech class in college, in grad school, in my professional life. I’ve managed to hide from it for a long time. But now I’m a writer. A writer who has to promote herself, who attends conferences and speaks on panels, and is asked to give talks at local libraries and other events. When I first realized this, I may have contemplated NOT writing for a moment or two. But since that’s not an option, I sucked it up and started with baby steps, like small events.
Partnering up with friends helps. Hiding behind my dog, who attends many events, does too. I’m building up to solo talks. I’ve had mostly positive experiences this past year since my first book came out, so my confidence has grown. Still, I know I need to push myself further.
In my “other” work life, this fear still dogs me. I’ve gotten better here as well, but I still have anxiety when I have to make any kind of work presentation. And there are days when admittedly I would rather hide in a corner than speak in front of a roomful. I understand this unwillingness to put myself out there has probably resulted in missed opportunities in the corporate world. I don’t want to miss any in my writing career.
Now, back to the train. Admittedly, all turned out well, albeit more work for me. Instead of an Amtrak to Penn, I had to take the next MetroNorth train to Grand Central, then hike to my original destination – right next to Penn – carrying my ginormous, 50-pound bag. Really, it’s not a long walk and it was a nice day to get some exercise. I love walking around the city. I still made my meetings and the day was fabulous, sore shoulder aside. But I could’ve avoided all the added aggravation if I’d JUST FACED THE DAMN SPIDER in the first place. Grabbed a broom and kicked him out of the house, with poise and confidence. Banished him. Asked him not to return.
Just like I need to do with my public speaking fears. Acknowledge them, examine them and banish them to the dark place they belong.
Readers, what’s your biggest fear?