Last week, I went to a work retreat where I had to give a talk in front of 200+ people. Anyone that knows me in real life, knows that I get super, super nervous about any public speaking event. In high school, I loved public speaking. I was more than willing to give blathering, unrehearsed speeches to the masses, like the one I gave to the entire student body about the huge amount of garbage the school produced in a day and how we needed to recycle. I think that my lack of fear resulted from some combination of not really caring what most of my high school peers thought of me and thinking that I had some awesome, unique voice.
Somewhere in the transition between high school and Reed, I started getting freaked out about public speaking. Suddenly, I was surrounded by a ton of really smart people, people whose opinions I actually cared about, people that actually had interesting perspectives. Probably because of the insecurities brought on by being away from home for the first time in such an intense learning environment, I started getting completely freaked out about public speaking. It got to the point that I actually threw up before giving any sort of talk.
In grad school, I developed coping skills (mostly giving so many talks that I eventually got numb to the process), but when I found out a couple of months ago that I would have to give a talk on my group’s research to a major cross section of the researchers and important people at my company, I started getting nervous. As the date of the retreat approached, my coping skills were put to the test as I waited for a visit from “Christa, the anxious vomit fairy”.
While I’m sure it would make much better blog fodder if I had ended up puking on the stage in front of everyone, I am happy to say that the talk went well. My boss did say, however, that he thought I might faint during the first five minutes or so, but I figure no vomit = good talk.* Right?
The rest of the retreat was more enjoyable. I had a great time getting to know my new co-workers in a more relaxed and socially lubricated setting. I also got to see a red tailed hawk, a super cute family of raccoons, the ocean and, my one true love of living in the bay area, the fog.
* I love writing language equations. My fifth grade math team had t-shirts made that said 4 NOITs = US. No one got it. (We were too frugal to pay for the K and W.) My other favorite is Two = One and One = None. These were the words of wisdom from my friend, the Rhodes Scholar, that he said repeatedly as he packaged up his stuff to ship to England. He put all of his items in plastic bags, before packaging them in boxes to be mailed. Two plastics bags for each item, as Two = One and One = None. Evan and I were going to have it engraved in our wedding rings, but it wouldn’t fit.