Throughout high school, I was always the kid that tried to get out of doing presentations, speeches, and pretty much anything that required me to speak publicly. I was the one with the sweaty palms, the knees that wouldn't stop shaking, and the lips that trembled. The mention of roll call got my heart racing.
My fear of public speaking comes from knowing that at any moment, it could all go horribly wrong, check. Butterflies in my stomach when raising my hand, even when I know I have the correct answer, check. What if I actually have the answer wrong and I just think it is correct?
So that means I should avoid the spotlight like the black plague, right? No.
Instead of keeping to myself, running from unpredictable yet promising opportunities, I decided to do the exact opposite:
I put myself up on a stage, and I risked it all.
I've always had a love for theater. Ironic, right? A couple of years back, I forced myself to start taking acting courses at my community college a few times a week.
At the beginning of the semester, the professor sat the entire class down and told us basically, "you're probably nervous about what comes next, about whether this guy you just met is going to ask you to walk up on stage and show everyone what you've got. If you think this...then you are definitely right."
My heart skipped a beat.
"...You absolutely will but you are going to get through it. I don't doubt that there will be times when you feel uncomfortable. That's okay because if you're nervous and uncomfortable, then there's a good chance you're doing something worthwhile."
I can't say that I believed him at the time, as my heart felt like it was going to explode out of my chest and the only thing on my mind was the overwhelming regret. Still, I learned quickly that he was telling the truth.
That class was where I explored the Black Box, the small room in the school basement where students huddled together to share their everyday fears and struggles. That class was where I created inner worlds, turning blank walls into years of memories, solid black into piercing blue waves of an open sea.
Perhaps most importantly, that class is where I let the bright lights of the theater shine on me.
It's true that the best way to fight a fear is to confront it. While my stage fright isn't totally gone, and I still have to clench my hands together to keep them from shaking, acting has become a starting point for pushing past the fear and overcoming any self-doubt.