When my favorite women’s entrepreneur group announced that September’s theme would be leaping, the first thought that came to my mind was “Oh no.”
The second thought was “Huh, well that’s an interesting reaction. Let’s unpack that a bit.”
For me, leaping conjures up visions of literally leaping across rocky chasms or epic leaps of faith like quitting one’s job or selling one’s house and moving to another continent. After taking a breath and realizing that those are quite extreme and not necessarily the focus of what leaping meant in this context, I felt better. Leaping can be anything big or small. Examples I’ve thought of include taking a vacation where your clients can’t reach you, taking a vacation where your clients can reach you, getting a bold haircut, reframing the way you think about something, taking even a small stand for something that is important to you, and more.
Even after realizing that I would not be pressured to jump off a cliff this month, I settled into the idea that anything that qualified as leaping for me wouldn’t happen this month. September is historically CRAZY TOWN at work (shameless plug: Art on Fire is September 25, 2015, from 6-11pm at American Eagle Outfitters Headquarters. For the first time, we’re using mobile bidding technology that also allows for pre-bidding and remote bidding on silent auction items. This is PGC’s most important fundraiser as we hope to raise about 10% of our annual budget in one night!) So basically I felt like it’s challenge enough just to be in September and suppress my desire to occasionally throat punch people.
But then I remembered.
I remembered that from September 29 – October 4, I’m going to do one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life.
Nerd Fitness is a blog I have followed and enjoyed for its approach to real life health and wellness. It’s a space where the “rules” are about fun, non-judgment, and finding what works for you and your goals, not what the latest media trend says all people should do. Last year for the first time, they put together a fall camp where members of the virtual community could come together in real life to work out, eat healthy food, have fun, and learn. It intrigued me but ultimately, the fact that I couldn’t afford it served as a wonderfully convenient excuse to disguise all my fear and anxiety about possibly going to something like this.
When they announced they would do it again this year, I put it on my giftbug wish list assuming it would just sit there, and nothing would ever come of it.
Then my parents asked me if it was something I really wanted to do, and all the fear and anxiety and HOLYSEPTEMBER of it all came flooding back. Perhaps that flood blocked out my memory of what happened next, but somehow, I said yes. And then I was signed up. And then I was in a Camp FB group with 200+ really enthusiastic people constantly sharing screenshots of their countdown apps with lots of exclamation points.
So, it’s happening. In the 9 or so months since I signed up, I don’t think I’ve been what one might call excited even once. Scratch that: The day they announced that Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo would be one of the camp counselors, I was excited for at least an hour.
And when I say I’m not excited, I’m not saying I’m dreading it, or at least I’m trying not to say that, but whoboy is this a freaking LEAP for me.
A) I don’t know any of these 300 people. Not a single one of them is even coming from the Pittsburgh area.
B) I’m an introvert. Like whoa. Thank bejeezus my parents sprung for me to have my own room.
C) I hate flying. I specifically hate flying without N.
D) As it turns out, I’m not really that much of a nerd. The folks in the FB group are always talking about movies, superheroes, games, etc that I don’t understand either because I’ve never heard of them or never seen them (or, let’s be honest, don’t care about them.) I’ve been sitting off in my FB corner for the last several months thinking, “uhm, I, uhm, I like Game of Thrones…”
E) Perhaps the biggest leap of this whole endeavor is that I did not ask my parents also to send N with me. Not only is he my buffer against the obnoxious world of airline travel, but he’s my introverted social safety blanket. He knows me. He gets me. Going to things with all new people here at home, let alone 500+ miles away from home, is just not something I normally do.
For me, the responses of “don’t stress” “let it go” “this is the most welcoming place ever” and “you’ll be fine” in the face of my anxiety and nerves, just don’t do it for me. I’m not worried about being judged, not fitting in, not being welcomed (truth be told, I’m a little scared of how welcoming it seems.) I’m just taking a huge leap and have some very Sam-like feelings about it. I’m not letting the feelings stop me from taking the leap or stop me from focusing on the things I know I’m looking forward to (see hiking, yoga, and of course, meeting Michelle Tam.) But these intended words of comfort come across to me as a little “don’t feel the way you feel,” a little invalidating.
When I finally got the gumption up to say this yesterday, “I totally appreciate your encouragement but these comments can be a bit invalidating. I know it’s not intended, but maybe it’s a perspective to consider,” I got a flurry of defensiveness. (Edit to Add: Since writing this, I’ve gotten a couple non-defensive comments indicating that at least a few people “get it.”) Maybe I’m not explaining my feelings clearly enough on screen. *Gasp* Maybe I’m not as good of a written communicator as I think I am, ruh-roh. Maybe people need to chill on the concept of needing to fix the feelings of others with platitudes.
Or maybe I should just shut up, ignore the ill-advised words of comfort, and take the freaking leap.