Essay 6 of 52: Nerves

Photo from A Christmas Story

I am nervous.

In twenty-five minutes, I'll get into my car and head to my freelance job - hosting specialty films at the Alamo Drafthouse.

It is by far, the coolest thing I've ever been involved with. I get to be onstage and talk about movies I LOVE. I get to meet and visit with other people who love those movies too. I get to tell jokes and see kids (and grown-ups) go nuts.

This is my 23rd show to host, and I still get nervous. Clammy palms nervous. And the nerves last until I'm waiting in the wings, seconds before walking up the stairs. So far I haven't tripped. I'll let you know when that happens.

I tell you this, not to brag about this awesome experience, but to share something important with you.

You need something in your life that makes you nervous. In a good way. 

In high school, two things made me "good way" nervous. Boys and sports. This carried on through college, but after I stopped playing sports and intramurrals, and found the man I wanted to marry, those "good way" nervous feelings stopped. My day job felt rather boring. My romantic life was blessed, steady, and wonderful. I was healthy. But I wasn't .... nervous. Hoping. Giddy. 

The first post-collegiate time I felt "good way" nervous was before I taught my very first Zumba class. I remember standing in the ladies dressing room, tying my shoestrings and feeling my shoulders shaking. Through the hundreds of classes I taught, the nerves grew less intense, but they were always there, especially when debuting a new track. The nerves fueled me.

You might think I am crazy. You might hate being nervous. And truthfully, the actual feeling of butterflies in my stomach isn't my favorite either. It's the high at the end, knowing that something was scary and unknown, but I did it anyway. It doesn't really matter if it was successful. I did my best. I tried.

When I was in high school, I started playing soccer my junior year. (It was a very small school.) I was decent and after an especially good game, my coach asked me to kick one of the penalty shots at the end of the game. I was nervous and I doubted myself. I said no.

Each time I'm faced with a new opportunity, a chance that makes me feel nervous, I think about that penalty kick. I will never know if I could have made it. Another chance never came. My nerves took control of me. I took the quick release of quitting over the longtime payout of the high.

But the high. There aren't many opportunites to feel "The High" after school ends. We get used to them. Grow accustomed to basing our value on that high. And their absence can be deflating. It can be depressing.

So you must search for opportunities to be nervous.

Take a class. Give a presentation at work. Book a vacation by yourself. Does going to a movie alone totally freak you out? Do that. Have you been wanting to join a singing group? Do that.

While most of my "good way" nervous experiences have me standing up in front of others, I don't think this is a key ingredient. I really love performing and for me, it's the ultimate adrenaline high. So when you get nervous about something, and it is your something, and you kill it? That is bliss. Nerves are so worth discovering something you rock at.

Oh, and this blog? This project? Clammy palms deluxe.

Ed. Note: After I finished this story, I headed to my show. During my speech, I flubbed a tidbit about the film. After beating myself up about it for a while, I decided I'd better release it. It was still worth it.

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