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.