Every job I’ve had has involved me questioning and meeting total strangers. I love walking into a room of strangers with confidence and anticipation, eager to meet new people and find new friends. I have no problem grabbing a spot at a podium in a crowded auditorium and speaking extemporaneously, especially when it involves my passions of writing and journalism.
Meeting new people, listening to their stories and sharing my own are my joys.
It hasn’t always been this way. Stepping out of my personal bubble and talking to strangers initially caused me no end of stress and often ended up with me incoherently babbling. (Has that changed? I hope so.)
The fear nearly derailed me at the journalism school at The Ohio State University. I loved newspapers and I loved writing. What I didn’t love in my teens and early 20s was getting out of my comfort zone. I was afraid of sounding ignorant. I often just wanted to cocoon in my cozy room at Mack Hall with a good book and some music.
For my first reporting class, I had to do a “story” about a speaking event (ironically). I don’t remember who or where, but I do recall spending hours — literally hours — sweating over making that call to get the details. Once I found the courage, it took more hours to compose two coherent paragraphs.
Fast forward to my life today. I have spent 40 years stringing together what I hope are coherent paragraphs. I’ve learned that I would rather look stupid to one person by calling for clarification as I’m writing a news story, than looking ignorant to 10,000 to 500,000 people (the range of circulation of the newspapers where I’ve worked).
I’ve lost my shyness in exchange for the fun of “new people” adventures.
My lack of fear of social situations has caused my poor husband some moments. For example, he is resigned to sitting in a corner when he accompanies me to parties. Usually, the partygoers are friends from my workplaces. Each time, I promise not to wander off and start talking. Each time, I last about five minutes before wandering off.
I go and collect him after a few hours. He’s enjoyed the party in his own way (sitting and talking with a few people who are also sitting) and I’ve enjoyed it in my way (going from room to room, delighted to see old friends and catching up).
This past week, I was honored to speak at the PTA Reflections Award Ceremony for the Lakewood Council of PTAs. I had the pleasure of judging the essays based on the prompt of “Showing Your Voice.”
I wrote down a few notes, but primarily spoke from my heart. I love my life and its adventures, past and future. I hope I shared how following your dreams will take you to places you never imagined, even in the twilight before falling asleep.
Inevitably, what’s old is new again. The next day I worried that I had rambled. I worried that I didn’t make sense. I worried I sounded like a crazed lady wandering through life without a plan.
So if I didn’t make sense to them, this is what I wanted to convey: If you love something, embrace it. But realize that the path is never a straight one. A love of writing, for example, can lead you to news organizations, podcasts, blogs, vlogs, communications jobs and marketing opportunities.
Follow your heart. It knows, even when you are doubting yourself.
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