One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today. – Dale Carnegie
Putting off living…scary thought, but that is what many of us do or have done. I have wanted more for my life and have wanted to be involved in more enriching activities, but when it comes to actually doing the work, I have let my own thinking get in the way.
Something most people don’t know about me is that I struggle with a mild form of anxiety. Specifically for me, I have a real difficulty with walking into a room where I know no one. I am terrified of the possibility of judgement, not fitting in, not having a way to connect with someone which many may find odd considering my career; I have to walk into these types of situations every time I walk into a new client. For me, as long as I know a single person in the room, I can deal with it because I have a known connection to someone who I can laugh off the awkwardness of the situation with, but if I don’t know anyone…I am panicking on the inside. To avoid that absolute feeling of no control and the shortness of breath that often accompanies these situations, if the event is optional, it is not uncommon for me to cancel because I have found any type of “excuse” not to go. Looking back, I now wonder about what have I allowed myself to miss.
Just over a week ago, on this journey for self improvement and working to my full potential, I had one of these situations arise. A local professional chapter was having a luncheon with the topic of conversation specifically on my industry and key things I deal with in my role. The whole thing was scheduled to last 90 minutes. It was optional for me to attend and I knew it would be good for me professionally to make some local connections in my industry. The morning of the event, I was making myself physically ill in the morning and kept telling myself things like “I really need to be available for work and don’t have time for this,” “I should really be working on X project instead,” and other excuses to not go. But in my head, I also heard the ringing message of one of my professional development classes — “The windows of opportunity are small and if you don’t take them when you have them, you will miss them.” How could I attend these classes and then not take advantage of an opportunity that had my name written all over it?
Well, I managed to go.
I showed up 30 minutes early, scared I wouldn’t be able to find the place and unsure of traffic. I sat in the parking lot looking at email on my phone trying to screw up the courage to go in. And then I saw the nice lady walking across the parking lot…by herself. I got out of my car and it turned out we were going to the same meeting. We had the opportunity to say this was the first meeting for us both as we rode up in the elevator together. There was only a few people there initially so I was able to walk in and together, we signed in and introduced ourselves to the people hosting the meeting. Most importantly, it got easier from there. Other people came in and joined our little group to network, looking for the same opportunity to connect to someone, to not feel alone in that room.
Without going into every little detail of that meeting, I can only say that I am VERY HAPPY I went. As a result, I have lunch plans to meet with a different woman from the meeting who is in my industry. The same woman also invited me to join a local women’s professional organization that works with local charities as well as providing networking opportunities across the group. I have volunteered to be a future speaker at this same professional organization. I also met a local college professor who wants my input on what they are currently teaching in the Computer Information Systems program and things they are considering adding to the curriculum. None of these opportunities to enrich my life would have happened if I hadn’t attended this meeting.
Will I still feel anxiety the next time I have to do this? Absolutely, but now I have the success of this experience to continue to work on calming the fear. I have the power of knowing that I am not the only one who has this natural fear. I saw it in the room in others as I was feeling it myself. Just over an hour of time spent doing something I thought could be so difficult, but looking at it now, the opportunities it has presented to me may be limitless in the potential to positively impact my life going forward.
I don’t want to put off life. Maybe one hour at a time, facing my fears when they arise with the knowledge that good can come out of it and I’m not alone in my fears, I can start to embrace life even more. I don’t want to be asking myself any more, “What are the opportunities I have missed?”