The First Step

Okay. So I have a presentation today at around 1 o’clock, and I’ve been dreading it since the day I found out that I was going to have to present, which was some time during week one of the academic year. We are now in week nine. This thought has had me spending some nights up, worried, and furiously whispering to myself (I share a room with my sister, who was sleeping during those times) “It’s going to be alright!”. And then I’d force all thoughts of this dreadful day away from my head, and try to get some sleep. My comforting thought was always the fact that the presentation was weeks away. As in, if it started to bother me, I’d tell myself: You’re getting ahead of yourself here, the presentation isn’t until four weeks from now, relax. Enjoy now.
I even contemplated skipping the presentation entirely, despite the fact that I will be graded on it, because of how nervous it was making me.
And what happened last week was that, when I started to get worried, I realised I could no longer say”Oh, I have weeks until that.”
Thank God, I couldn’t really worry about it that much last week. Mainly because I didn’t have enough time to (I had midterms), but also because I avoided the thought as if it were the plague. And then, when the weekend came around, I couldn’t really bring myself to prepare for the presentation. I don’t know why. Was it because I was still avoiding the thought? Was it because I didn’t want to ruin my weekend with feelings of anxiety? I don’t know, I just didn’t do anything.
I am telling you all this because I am trying to paint how challenging I find it to present something in front of just a small group of people, like I have to do today.
So, yesterday, I started to work on my presentation. Thankfully, I always had an idea of how I’d do it, what I wanted to talk about exactly, and all that jazz. I put that all together last night. And, I have to be honest, yesterday, I wasn’t that nervous at all. In fact, I was very chill about the whole thing. Sure, there were the odd nerve-wracking thoughts here and there, but I think I’ve grown pretty good at living in the “now”. (As you can tell, I’ve been practicing it for a couple weeks now).
My friend, Nouf, and I were talking about something a while ago that has sort of stayed with me and grown during these several weeks. We were talking about how much baby steps matter. She said, “To other people you might look a bit silly or weird while taking that baby step, but they don’t know how important it is. You do. You’re taking that first step, and it may not be a lot, but it’s still something. At least you’re trying. That means a lot. More than anyone, who’s not you, will ever know.” And though she didn’t really know it at the time, she sort of gave me some really good advice, because that thought has sort of been my war paint for the last couple of weeks. Especially today. It’s something that I’ve been repeating to myself on and on. I’m trying. At least, I’m trying.
   I’ve had this problem for years now, but I was always a bit too self-conscious to do anything about it. I don’t know why, but I always thought of it as “I missed my chance”. It definitely wasn’t a conscious thought, but I remember always thinking things like: you’re too grown up to do anything about it now, everyone else seems to be okay with this. You’ll look weird.
And it wasn’t until I was in high school that I realised how wrong that was. And I noticed it because I was watching a girl, who was in middle school, do something despite the fact that she was really struggling with it, and I remember feeling proud of the girl, because I know how much courage it takes to do something that you’re not really good at publicly (and sometimes even privately), and I also remember thinking at the time “She’s still young, she’ll get better in time.” And when I had that thought, I thought back to when I was  in middle school and how I thought people would look at me and think “You’re too old to be struggling with this.” Now, even if some people do think that, I think I’ve reached a point where I can’t take that as a reason anymore. There have been so many times where I have wished that I worked on the things that I’m struggling with today, before, because, at least then, I would be way beyond the first step that I’m taking today.
So I have consciously decided to take that first step today. I’m going to present. I’m going to do my best, even if my best isn’t that great, at least I tried. At least I didn’t cower away from this like I wanted to, or let it control me. At least I’m working on it for my future self. Because, God knows, I cannot keep feeling like this every time I’m going to present. I mean, if you want to get better at something, you have to start working on it. I’m starting today, and I’m looking forward to the day that I get to stand in front a class (or maybe, even, a crowd one day. Who knows?) without feeling an ounce of nervousness. Though I am willing to settle for just feeling a little bit nervous, instead of the feelings I had these couple weeks (NINE, it’s been NINE weeks).
We’ll see how this goes.

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2 thoughts on “The First Step

  1. I can relate to this. I’ve always hated public speaking so much. I’d get super nervous, my hands would shake, I’d get all sweaty and even turn red sometimes out of embarrassment. I hated being up front and in the center of attention. Over time, I’ve gotten better at it. If you really think about it a lot of people are in the same shoes and that makes me feel less nervous knowing that no one is really, actually, truly staring me down and judging me 😛
    What also helps is that I would have some teachers and professors who would say how much they hated and feared public speaking and now they’re teachers and they’ve overcome that fear. Makes me think, look at how they got over it, I can too. And so can you! I know it’s hard and my heart will probably always beat out of my chest but I’m not going to die up there haha. Once I went up and afterwards a girl said I looked really calm even though on the inside I was super nervous. Anyway, that was long but good luck today!!! I believe in you.

    • Thank you so much for this comment. It’s nice to know that it gets better (that sounded a bit cheesy, but nonetheless, I mean it honestly). Also! It turns out that my presentation is supposed to be the day after tomorrow, I am trying to view this in a positive light. At least I have more time to practice!
      And I too think about other students presenting, and am comforted by the thought that they are also put in a situation similar to mine. And as for teachers, I can’t imagine getting used to that point of view of the classroom. I think I much prefer my own, but I’m not going to let that stop me from anything! I can do this. I can. And if I do it and realise that I’m not so good at it, at least I am trying. One thing that comforts me about this whole situation is that, no matter how nervous I am about it, I am not backing out of it. It’s nice to feel brave, even when being brave makes you feel scared.

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