Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Conquering Fears

Confident, Self Assured, Independent, Strong, Intelligent.....these are all words that have been used by friends, colleagues and family to describe me. These words I have heard so many times.....for many years.....yet at times that voice from within says something different to me.....and what it has to say is not nearly as positive or as kind as what my dear family and friends have expressed. Why is that? When did that happen? Or has it always been that way? I am coming to the slow realization that somewhere on this life journey I have taken a major detour ....the path has been filled with....needing to "fit" in...... needing to be perfect....not wanting to make mistakes in front of others.....not letting people completely in...as they may find out.....what??.....what have I been so afraid of? Truth be told it is many things. Funny how that tiny voice can keep a hold over you saying loudly .....you aren't good enough or no you can't do that.

I was recently asked to do a presentation at the University of Washington's Autism Center. Every summer they put on a week long summer intensive program. Now to back up just a bit....three years ago when I moved to Seattle, the school district who hired me sent me to this very training. Everyday I would show up and sit mesmerized...listening to all these speakers...wondering...wishing......wanting to be one of them! I have always had a deep desire to be a professor....to write grants...do research....get my Ph.D.

This all came about because my district has a contract with UW Autsim Center. We have a consultant who works with us .. Dr. Milani Smith. I have worked with her for the past three years. I can still remember the first time I met her at the training. It has been wonderful working with her and she believes in me. She actually says she learns from me...what?? me?? When she asked me to present this summer I was flooded with two emotions....excitement and FEAR. I knew this was exactly the opportunity I have always wanted and needed. As my goal is to someday....train teachers to work with students who have autism. However that tiny voice in my head was there...whispering..." You can't do this....remember your public speaking class in college...yes the one you almost failed.....remember....you completely froze when you got in front of others....no you can't do this...it will be a disaster". I have given 3 presentations this past year and I always walked away feeling like I did ok....but not.. I hit it out of the ballpark great.

The presentation was to be 3 hours! YIKES! That is a long time to talk. I almost called Milani and told her I couldn't do it.....but I didn't. Instead I wrote an affirmation and taped it to my bathroom mirror....and I worked on my presentation (took 5 hours to put together).....and I rehearsed. I organized and prepared my materials. The night before I am not sure I slept at all. There was that voice again.... " What if you get up there and forget something...or even worse what if your voice starts shaking". Each time I would say my affirmation...it was simple..... Julie you will do a wonderful job presenting tomorrow..... over and over all night.

I arrived at the UW 30 minutes early. Set up all my books and visuals I had brought as examples. I sat in the bathroom for about 5 minutes as the nerves kicked into high gear and my hands started to shake. Took lots of deep breaths. Then it was time. The room we were in was a stadium style seating with a stage area. The presentation screen took up the whole wall behind me. The participants trickled in from lunch. A lady walked to the front to introduce me and read my bio ...and then.....it was time to start. I walked up ...looked out at the audience and I suddenly felt comfortable.....just like I was standing in front of my class teaching. No shaky voice...no forgetful moments...No freezing up. I even started to remember all of my funny student stories and dropped them in at all the right times. The 3 hours flew by...and several people came up to me at the break to pick my brain and ask me questions and advice on how to handle situations. It was awesome! I had a lady stop me after the presentation and told me that she learned so much from my presentation and that she wrote tons of ideas down.

I walked out there beaming! Glowing..... mostly because my biggest goal in all of this was to deliver a presentation that would be meaningful to teachers. It made my whole day to know that even if it was just one person.....that one person walked out learning something they didn't know before. I also realized that I would really like to do this more.....I would really love to teach teachers how to work with these students and share what I have learned working with students who have autism for the past 12 years.

Ok...one last thing...another fear...... I hiked Snow Lake last week. I did this as a backpacking trip last August....and although I LOVED my trip I felt the hike was sooo hard. Needless to say i have been asked to do this hike by several friends and I have always said No. Why? Fear......fear of not being a good enough hiker........and struggling again with this hike. Well I am happy to report I did it...and guess what.......it wasn't hard at all! Of course I have done tons of hiking so I am in much better hiking condition this summer than last.....but once again I let that voice...that self doubt get in the way. Once of these days I am going to have a stomp that voice party! I wanted to share this with as well...i read it and was blown away. I need this reminder...daily!

"Our imperfections are what connect us to each other and our humanity. Our vulnerabilities are not weaknesses, they are powerful reminders to keep our hearts and minds open to the reality that we're all in this together" ~ Brene Brown ....author... "I thought it was just me"


azlori said...

Awesome Julie! Keep it up!

The Toenjes Family said...

Congrats on it all! It is always amazing to me that we can't see in ourselves what others can yet we can see the beauty, talent, goodness in those we surround ourselves with. I am glad that you are realizing just how wonderful we all knew you were! Keep on believing!

velvet brick said...

Julie....CHECK YOU OUT!!! I love that you wrote about your presentation experience! Have we all not had a time when we had to do something and we were scaredy-cats??!! That voice that creates that doubt can be so paralyzing!! I just LOVE that you wrote an affirmation, taped it up, repeated it like a mantra and forged on...that is an amazing use of self-empowerment!! What also worked so well in your corner was how much preparation you put into making your presentation and gathering your materials and rehearsing it. I know how much time this all took for you, but it was so worth every minute....YOU SHINED, GIRL...YOU SHINED!! This is such an incredible goal that you have reached up and claimed for yourself....I could not be more proud of you...I am sorry that I was not around when you called to share it all with me.

As for your pictures hiking Snow Lake...I LOVE THAT PICTURE OF YOU ALL DECKED OUT IN YOUR SHORTS AND TOP IN THE SNOW!! Does this just not sum up how much you BELONG up there in the land of Seattle???

Julie...remember a conversation we had a month or so ago...and I told you 'gosh, if you were still living here in Arizona, you wouldn't being do that!'.... just this post alone give you two more achievements to put on that list of 'things I've done because I moved up here'... and the list continues to grow longer and longer.. As much as I miss you, and as much as there have been times that I have actually said "How come Julie is in Seattle right now and we can't share a bottle of wine tonight"... I am just in awe of how much you have blossomed in your three years up there. What a wonderful path your life journey has taken you...you really DO need to be so proud of yourself!

Think back to the movie 'The Wizard of Oz'. Dorothy and Toto are whisked out of Kansas to a new land...and all the while, Dorothy asks others to help her get back home to Kansas. Flying monkeys, rusty Tin Men, wicked green witches...all challenges that she faces as she tries to reach her goal. Finally, Glinda (da good witch)meets up with her and says..."You don't need to be helped. You've always had the power to go back to Kansas." Julie, you've always had on ruby slippers - at least since I've known you. It just makes my heart sing to see you click them three times now! I do believe your life journey is paved with yellow bricks! YOU GO, GIRL!!
Love you....and congrats on your new acheivements!

Cheela said...

I am proud of you, Julie!

Anonymous said...

Well done, Julie.
I relate to what you posted from several angles: I live in the northwest and love it. As a speech pathologist assistant, I, too, have worked with autistic kids. And, I deal with the voice inside that makes me doubt myself and others, and continually asks me, "What if you make a mistake, fail, look like an idiot, are rejected, etc???"
I'm so happy that you affirmed yourself and overcame your fears to achieve a goal.
blessings, karen in oregon
ps. found you thru velvet brick's site.

Tami Proffitt said...

oh julie...i'm proud of you and in awe! but stand tall and walk tall...that you have not only accomplished fears, realized your worth but that you are contributing to a community that finds inspiration in those well read, that you're respected and looked up to. i sooooo wish i could have been there...really i DO!