Something’s up

People change. Overtime, over the years, personalities morph. They bend, adjust, reboot. Introverts become extroverted. The immature find maturity. The hopeful become bitter. The shy become bold.

Introverted by nature, I like to be alone. My hobbies, distance running and reading, are solitary activities. Time spent quietly in my own head. Only myself as company. I wasn’t always like this. For a decade, I was social. Always looking for companionship, for party buddies. I drank a lot, too much; the alcohol loosened my nature. I was gregarious, outgoing.

That phase is over. Running. Reading.

Conversation is difficult. I’m self-conscious, awkward. My timing is wrong. I talk over others. My sentences dry up mid-thought.

My comfort level in speaking drops exponentially in proportion to the number of people who are listening. One’s hard, two’s worse, three’s horrible, etc.

Two months ago, I started a new job. I’m an administrator at a small elementary school. A couple of dozen employees, a couple hundred students. In staff meetings, I’m expected to make some comments, give a briefing. Historically, this leaves me feeling sick. Nauseous in anticipation. Sleepless the night before. But it hasn’t. So far, I don’t seem to care.

Thursday night was back-to-school night. Me on the stage, saying a few words—giving a presentation. A hundred people in the audience. This scenario didn’t occur to me when I accepted the position. If it had, I wouldn’t have taken the job. I wouldn’t knowingly put myself in this position.

I walked to the podium, adjusted the mic, and I spoke. And I felt… nothing. No anxiety, no dread. There was no nauseous buildup, no sleepless anticipation. No self-consciousness, no fear. I was comfortable. At ease.

For some reason, I’ve overcome my fear of public speaking. I’ve noticed that I’m better in conversations as well. After my presentation, I found myself talking with three teachers for fifteen minutes. Joking, sharing. No awkward timing, no stalled sentences. I was like a person. A normal person.

I’m not sure what’s changed, or how long it will last. I fully expect my next back-to-school night to be the stressful, vomit-inducing event it’s intended to be. I expect my next staff meeting presentation to leave me shaking. But right now, I’m simply thankful for Thursday night.

24 thoughts on “Something’s up

  1. I appreciate your post, Jeff. As I fellow introvert, I do understand this. One of the things I’ve noted over the years, is that if my speaking has a purpose, such as running a meeting, I have very little problem with it. If I’m supposed to do chit-chat, social banter, then its a different thing entirely. Also, I’ve noticed with increasing age comes a decreased care about what other people think, which reduces the situational anxiety as well. Interesting concept. Glad your meeting went well.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Maybe what has changed, is you are exactly where you need to be. I was thinking how lucky they are to have an administrator who most likely listens a lot more then speaks. There is wisdom in all of this. I hope you have a great year, Jeff.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I could’ve written this same piece as it describes me to a T – until I got to the end. Wow, that is great. I am the public speaker that makes that audience uncomfortable as I am so visibly distressed. Good to know a different kind of public speaking future could be in store. And great job to you! That has to be such a relief!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Way to go Jeff. What a shift you’ve had. I had serious problems with public speaking and I still do – although I’m much better after training I long for the day the nausea and sleepless nights before a presentation disappear. I hope you’re enjoying your new job – sounds like you’re doing grand at it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Once again, I can so relate with you, my friend. Like I write in my “Why I Write: Litetary Chidbirth” post, I too srruggle in oral conversation.

    “(I am better at) writing rather speaking. I prefer written communication over oral because it allows me more time to form my thoughts into words, to better prepare them for their life in the real world. In oral conversations, I’m afraid the silence will get too long, or that someone will change the course of the conversation, or that someone will steal my thunder. These fears cause me to speak too quickly and I either misspeak, or I use the wrong tone and offend someone, or I present an idea that is too superficial and not what I truly believe in all of its depth. In writing I have time to think, to formulate what to say and how to say it without being misunderstood (hopefully!).”

    I’m proud of you for finding some unexpected courage to overcome your dread.

    I’ve seen a similar journey in my life from extrovert to introvert to recently more confident.

    May it continue for both of us!​why-i-write-literary-childbirth/

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m sorry I didn’t reply to this comment sooner. I seem to have missed it. I thinkk we’re exactly alike on the preference to write rather than speak. It annoys people at work how much I rely on email. Once at my old job, I Instant Messaged my office mate.


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