Monday, August 13, 2012

Slice of Life - Being Comfortable in Our Own Skin

 Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers.

Together things happen that can never happen alone, which is a very important thing for an introverted and socially anxious person like me to realize. I guess these days this is a politically charged statement, but it seems to me manifestly true. You make nothing alone. Human beings are not mere competitors, and human life is not merely competition. We are collaborators. To be human is to catch the falling person.
~ John Green, author

I saw this quote from John Green the other day and it stopped me in my tracks. First, I love the quote. I think if more people in this world realized we need to collaborate, that we are better off together, if they caught the falling person, we’d be in a better place. This is what I want to teach my children and my students.

The other part I identify with is John himself. He’s been very open about the fact that he’s an introvert and suffers from anxiety, and I share this struggle. It’s funny, last year a student interviewed me for a writing assignment. Later the teacher interviews hung in the hall. A colleague was reading them and trying to guess who each teacher was. (They weren’t labeled until later.) I passed and she asked me which one was mine. Glancing them over I pointed at one on the top and she laughed and said I must be mistaken, that one listed that the teacher was shy and I am obviously not. She couldn’t be more wrong.

Shyness has always been part of my life. I’d much prefer staying home, reading a book, to going out. I prefer my home to traveling, friends to strangers, keeping quiet to volunteering. Growing up, I rarely spoke up in class to the point that many teachers didn’t connect with me. Anxiety didn’t really kick in until I was older, but it is ever present.

So how is it that a colleague didn’t recognize me and chuckled when I claimed the page that listed shy? It’s something I have worked hard on. When I’m comfortable, I now speak up. I try hard and do things that make me nervous, require to me step outside of my comfort zone. In front of friends and family, I am myself and completely comfortable in my skin. In front of students, I am in my element.

And for the anxiety, I try and not let it hold me back. I get on the plane even though it makes me feel like I’m having a heart attack. I speak in front of groups of teachers though I know my face will be bright red, my heart will race, and my voice will crack. I will write and put my writing “out there” even though it feels like jumping off a cliff. Sometimes it seems easier, sometimes it seems like the hardest thing in the world, but the motto I live by is that in our family we do hard things (See this blog post for more). And I need to be that role model to my boys who, I fear, will take after me.

This is why I thank John Green, for being so forthcoming on the things he struggles with. I am as well, especially with my students. It amazes me how many of my students struggle with anxiety. I share my story, teach them some deep breathing, and we connect. I want them to learn what I am still learning, the amazing feeling of being comfortable in our own skin.