My first journalism assignment was one of terrible anxiety.
It wasn’t my first Central Michigan Life assignment. That was a frightful experience as well, but after I circled the inside of the bowling alley eighteen different times, I finally gained the gumption to walk up to someone and join their bowling team. Six frames later, I was actually asking questions.
Technically, as a reporter, I wasn’t supposed to participate, but I actually produced a story, and that was a big enough accomplishment for me that night.
My first assignment was a much more terrible experience, though. It was in the beginning of my freshman year; I elected to enroll in an introductory journalism course. In the middle of class, we were told to interview three people and discover what their preferred news source was.
I spent the next 15 minutes hiding on top of the stairs. I made up the answers, presented them to the class, sank into my seat and died inside.
What can I say? People are scary.
With their judgmental looks, social rules, vocal quips with doubled meanings and varied expectations, I mean, hell, I’ve always been lost, socially. You know the guy who is the life of the party? I’m standing behind him, trying to dissappear in a crowded room.
You know what else is terrifying? Ordering pizza. At the beginning of 2012, I was still afraid to answer the phone. Or, God help me, call somebody. There is no platform of communication that makes it more clear that people are judging you.
Four months into 2012, after I was pushed into reporting, I decided to major in journalism. You know, the career where you talk to people for a living.
I currently spend most of every day talking to people. Not only that, I ask them uncomfortable questions, sometimes in person, most of the time over the phone. And, yeah, eight times out of ten, I dial.
You get to a point where you realize that fear isn’t any kind of defining factor unless you allow it to be.
And, yes, of course they’re judging you. They’re judging you relentlessly all the time, and you’re judging them right back. And while you’re busy judging each other, I can almost guarantee there is someone in the back of the room, watching your conversation and judging you collectively.
It’s at about that point when you realize you really shouldn’t care. So, you don’t.
Or maybe it’s more like how Ralph Waldo Emerson put it: “He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”
Well, I’m still scared every day. That’s probably why I’m still here.