I am driven and sometimes simultaneously stunted by fear. I like to live inside my little comfort zone. I am afraid of trying new things because I fear failure. Don’t we all? But if my inner voice insists that I can’t do something, my rational side who is also a fierce competitor takes over and it’s game on.
Tomorrow I am leaving my little cocoon of safety to explore unchartered waters. Even though this is just a three-day seminar with a crash course of Closed Captioning 101, I will be expected to bring my equipment and perform. I won’t be just listening, nodding and smiling, offering my ahhhs and ooohhhs and mm-hms and “wow, how cool is that?” when appropriate. I will be expected to try.
It’s not going to be pretty, I’m sure. I will be pushing myself beyond every limit. There is no asking the news anchorman to slow down, please. I will now have to have names like Kim Kardashian in my dictionary. I will now need to actually keep up with current events so I am not frozen when these names of foreign countries come flying at me at 300 wpm. I am scared. I am afraid.
But I also was afraid in 1994 when I enrolled in keyboarding my junior year of high school. I had hunted and pecked at my keyboard until then, and I was quite content with that. It was strongly advised that I take keyboarding, though, since any respectable job I would hope to get someday would require I actually know how to type. (Would it ever!!) Not two weeks after I began my typing class, I was typing as fast as 110 wpm. I realized that my fear was irrational. I feared what I didn’t know. I had a talent that would’ve escaped me had I never tried.
My decision to go to court reporting school right after high school was partially born out of my mad typing skills. A high school friend planted the idea in my head after she told me she was going to go to school to become a court stenographer. After I asked her what that was — and a teacher confirmed that because of my 110 wpm mad typing skills, I would be an excellent candidate for that career — I made that my goal.
Fast forward to September of 1996, my first day of court reporting school. They gave me this funky-looking machine and said “Go!” I didn’t touch it for three whole days. What did I do? I typed keyboarding drills on my typewriter (yes, typewriter) because that is what I knew and that is what I was good at. It was comfortable to me. I didn’t want to look at this scary machine with no letters printed on the keys and not even all the letters in the whole alphabet. What do you mean, TKPW is a G? But after three days, I told myself that I had to at least try. I mean, this is what I’d signed up for, right? Worst case scenario, if I stunk miserably at it, I’d cut my losses and move on. I was 18 years old. The sky was the limit.
And then my fingers met the keys. And I was good at this. This made sense to me. Of course TKPW is G. Of course TKPWO is “go.” What made zero sense to me before now made complete sense. I was a natural at this. I was going to be the one out of 12 who completed the course.
After a few years of working in the freelance arena of court reporting, my husband suggested I try to become an official court reporter, working full time in court. “Absolutely not!” I said. “And work in a scary courtroom? I might not be able to hear. They might all talk too fast for me. I don’t know the lingo.” And of course I’ve now worked in a courtroom for almost ten years. And I’m damn good at it.
Fear is a scary emotion. No pun intended. But I often sit and think about all of the things I could potentially be good at that I’m just too afraid to try. Is it the same fear that compelled me to actually do my homework but not turn it in because at least a zero was a known versus the possibility of having my work scrutinized and being handed back a 40%? Yeah, maybe it is.
But today I am swallowing up all of my fear and using it to drive me. I am going to find out that this is one of those things I never knew I could do. And I’m going to do it. Look for me on your TV’s at the gym and the bars in approximately a year.