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"