The way I imagine my own anxiety is similar to the way you try and bury a body in a nightmare. You’ve got the body and you’re out in the middle of nowhere in the darkest hour of night, and you’re trying to shovel the dirt back into the hole you made—the body is so deep in the ground now, no animal could sniff it up—and you’re nervous. Not sweating, necessarily. You’re in the zone, you know you’ve got a mission to accomplish and you’re getting it done. But every time you look up from your work to make sure no one’s out there lurking in the shadows, watching, the dirt over the body vanishes. It’s in a pile by your feet again. You start shoveling the dirt back in again, and this continues on, the cycle never ending. You feel like you’ll never really bury this body, that soon dawn will break through and shine delicate spotlights over you and the giant hole in the ground. You think desperately about waking up. But you don’t, until you do. And then it’s over.
When I get stressed out, that’s how it feels. Not akin to what it actually feels like to bury a body. I wouldn’t know much about that, of course. But the way it feels in a dream. Dulled, back-of-your-head stress, threatening to rush forward.
I’m not one of those nervous wrecks. But when I have important words to produce, I have a hard time thinking about much else. Sleep flirts but never commits. Experiencing other new things becomes more of an ordeal (new classes? New people? Sounds like woooooork.) But since it’s the beginning of the new school year, I want to start off on the right foot.
That foot is initiative. I’m determined to get more involved with school. Or things that are related to school.
So a few days before the start of classes, my university’s central newspaper sent out pitches to the volunteer mailing list. I replied. The staff member involved with volunteer contributors agreed to let me write a feature.
Which, as you might guess, means I’ve spent the last little while walking around with a little stress baby growing inside me.
I mean, no, seriously, great! I get to write something for the paper. Cool. But writing the feature meant I couldn’t just rely on my own thoughts to direct my position. I had to talk to deans, associate deans, faculty, and Arts alumni. It took me half an hour just to compose a few mass emails (bearing in mind that only a few would probably respond). Except for my phone conversation with one of the associate deans of Commerce, which was mildly disastrous by having caused a small fire on my end, things actually went okay. Which was… nice.
And amid writing I-shit-you-not crap drafts and bugging people with my queries, I came to understand something most people already do: it’s good to talk to people.
Not in the friendly sense–although that’s good too. But in the opinion-forming sense. I understand that it’s a wee obvious, but epiphanies usually are.
As nervous as I was to submit my feature this morning, it’s so much more than what I initially planned it to be. At first, I thought I’d just write down my own opinion on the value of an Arts degree–the pitch in question–and maybe speak to a few BA holders who had had moderate-to-great success in entering the workforce post-graduation. But talking to a wider range of people–including those outside of my own faculty–shaped my article into something so much more. My opinion has developed immensely in talking to all these different people, so much so that I’ve almost shifted my entire attitude towards the subject. And the little nuances in the wordings of things, the small shifts in perspective, these are what have helped me develop a better, more rounded article.
Again, I realize this isn’t really a big deal. But as a shy person (no one realizes how shy I am!) who isn’t used to taking initiative, it was a little nerve-wracking. Now that I’ve just submitted my article, I’d say it wasn’t so bad, but that first process, that First Time Doing Something, stressed me out more than it probably should have. That, and I know my writing is not as great as I wish it was.
Which was half the reason I wanted to submit something in the first place. If I don’t work towards improving the versatility of my writing, then I’ll never get better. The same goes for you–whatever you enjoy doing, you have to practice often. You have to go out of your way and outside of your comfort zone. You won’t improve if you don’t. I think I might make a post about setting goals in the near future, because it’s small things like these that help build your confidence, skill set, and make you more likely to achieve the things you set out to do. (THREE CHEERS FOR SELF CONFIDENCE!)
Oh: I should really note that usually I’m a pretty laid back person. I’m not like a rabbit or anything, okay? It’s just that public involvement in school, while fun, often comes with a flavour of exhibitionism. I don’t mind writing online, but that’s because I’m not concerned with judgment. I don’t worry about laying bare all the little thoughts that zip around the lump of grey matter suspended inside my skull. And I certainly don’t worry as much about the quality of my writing. But now that my article’s done, I like to think that writing a little feature for a university paper isn’t so frightening, either–not that I’d ever be devoid of stress. Just that shovelling dirt over that body would take much less effort.