A few weeks ago in the English class I co-teach, we were working on 5 minute presentations that the students needed to develop, on any topic. When figuring out thesis statements, I had used the bird-eating spider of the Amazon as an example. So when it was time to give an example of a good versus bad presentation, I offered to do one. On the bird-eating spider. The teacher I work with had one for the classes I'm not in (he teaches five sections and I am in only two), and it had been a tricky week with adoption stuff and migraines, so he said to do it if I had time.
Well, I tried to put one together but just googling pictures of the damn things had me in tears. Literally in tears, because those things are HIDEOUS. I felt like giant hairy spiders with eyes you can see were crawling all over me. It was terrible. I choked and didn't get past three slides (that I even got to three slides was fairly miraculous, I think).
Fast forward to last Thursday, when we had no school due to the giant windstorm that devastated our area. It's the busy season for special education, and we had no internet, so I had to go in to Bryce's office at the university where he's getting his doctorate to get anything done. He has a coworker there who, no joke, RAISES SPIDERS. Big ones. Horrific ones. To him, fascinating amazing creatures. To me, a zoo of death.
He brought in shells of various tarantulas. Shells, you might say? YES. Shells. They molt, like lobsters or crabs. They leave behind hollow simulacrums of their hairy, leggy, multi-eyed selves every so often. That right there made me yark in my mouth a bit. We stopped down on our way out for a walking break, and he said, "You want to see them?"
Here is where I feel proud, and like I am doing my New Year's Intentions justice. Maybe I'm falling down on the decluttering right now, but I am certainly doing things that scare me.
I not only said "sure" to seeing horrible hairy shells of spidery doom, but I TOUCHED THEM. I'm not crazy, I didn't hold any of them, because nightmares forever...but I give myself huge points for touching the hairy, sticky legs of giant spiders from Eastern Africa and the Middle East. I touched the hairs one way and then the other (surprisingly soft one way, sticky the other for CLIMBING ON THINGS...), and felt the creepy claws at the end of the legs to help with climbing (bigger on the arboreal tarantula that lives in date palms and is "rather aggressive" according to the spider guy), and felt the sticky pads that were bigger on the arboreal meanie for climbing on trees and such. While it was genuinely interesting, it did not improve my relationship with spiders. Still terrified.
Another thing that I did that pushed myself in the fear department was audition for Listen To Your Mother, an annual event Mother's Day weekend involving a show where people read pieces about some aspect of motherhood. It's a woven tapestry of pieces with a theme that presents itself to the directors as they hear all the audition pieces, and you just don't know what that thread is going to be.
I auditioned March 5th, after working my behind off writing a piece. I wrote two, actually, as the first one I had worked and worked and worked and edited and edited and edited (can't be more than 5 minutes) and in the end, didn't like. I had tried to fit too much in. I was not taking all my own advice for students about narrowing my topic and finding a focus. So I rewrote it a week before the audition and then read it aloud to virtually anyone who would listen. I was a reading bully, and I thank every person who listened and timed me and gave feedback.
The day of the audition my best friend was visiting. She said, "I don't think I've ever SEEN you this nervous!" And she was right. I can talk in front of students all day long. I get more nervous with adults, but I am not afraid to be the person who shares out in awful group activities in faculty meetings or professional development, and I am a participator possibly to the Hermione level. But this was different. I put my story out there in this space all the time, but I don't have to read it out loud. I don't have to perform it, per se. You read it if you like (and I'm always amazed at how many people do read what I write), and I stay in my pajamas or whatever, clicking away over here and not having to see your face when it's read.
The audition was different. It was baring myself in a way I don't usually. It was opening myself up for rejection (even if that rejection is presented in the most supportive, kind way possible). It was way, way out of my comfort zone.
But I did it, and I am very proud of my piece. The women who listen and put the show together said lovely things about it afterwards, that it was powerful and an important perspective to share.
I didn't make it into the show, though. The email letting me know was incredibly kind, and was not (entirely) a form letter as they again noted specific things about my piece. I won't know if it wasn't up to snuff or it just didn't fit the thread, and I sort of don't want to know.
Because what I want to take from this is how proud I am of myself for stretching myself beyond what's comfortable. For actually writing a piece to audition with and then giving it everything I could in front of those ladies, even if my voice was trembly at times and I was clearly nervous. I did something out of the ordinary for me. And so even though I didn't make it into the show, I feel that this is a first step in taking more risks, in opening myself up to "no" so that maybe I can get some "yes" when it comes to my writing.
It scares me, not quite as much as giant hairy spiders, but I think it's good to do things that scare you every once in a while. It's good to take a risk in order to possibly have more opportunities.
Sometimes just taking the risk at all is an accomplishment in itself.