This past week, I did something that, even just a few months ago, would have sent me running for my nausea pills. It involved a special guest, a comedy script, lots of Kelly Ripa clips, and the craziest pair of shoes I’ve ever bought.
In short, I staged a talk show.
This might not seem so grand—especially when I tell you that the “studio audience” was a group of about 70 co-workers, and there were no real cameras involved. But “acting” of this sort, particularly with a script and timed visuals, has never been my forté. All I can say is: it’s a good thing I’ve been cosplaying a lot this past year. That (I think?) made the difference between a flat out “no” and a hesitant “yes” (with a very sick stomach).
The assignment started out harmless enough: Interview a coworker and present his/her story in a creative way as part of a national company meeting at my day job. There were plenty of ways to stage this presentation that wouldn’t be outside my comfort zone, and I intended to take them. But ironically, my coworker’s story turned out to be about taking risks with no concern for the outcome—because that’s often the best way to grow.
What better way to honor the spirit of his story than to live it out right on stage?
And so, with the help of a few intrepid volunteers from my department, my coworker and I set about putting the whole thing together. He played the guest, I was to be the host. We told his story through traditional interview questions, sprinkled with video “commentary” from his family and humorous “commercial breaks” that also featured his work.
I told myself I could do this. My team was prepared. The visuals looked great, and I had spent lots of time thinking about what to say. (After all, what ELSE is there to think about when you’re up at 2 AM sweating with fear?) I even went out and bought the most ridiculous pair of shoes I have ever owned.
But the day the national meeting began, everything fell apart. The team was still committed, and the visuals still looked great, but I was a last-minute wreck. The first day of the meeting, I barely squeaked by feeling normal. By the next day, I was into a full-blown Aspie meltdown (or shutdown, I suppose, as I kept it internalized) that was exacerbated by the residual effects of a virus. Wednesday night I was flat on my back in bed, convinced I’d never make it through those terrible ten minutes the following morning . . .
But somehow, on Thursday, I got up. Got dressed. Put on those crazy shoes and my biggest Kelly Ripa smile. And before I knew it, Lisa England Live was . . . well . . . live.
In my nightmares the entire week previous, I flubbed the whole interview and tripped over my 4-inch heels. The crowd laughed at me, instead of with me. I crawled off the stage in humiliation, and worse, my coworker had to crawl with me.
But that was just what they were: nightmares.
Reality—unlike reality TV—turned out to be a whole lot better. People actually laughed at the jokes we’d prepared. The A/V team pulled our media off flawlessly, and my coworker and I were relaxed on stage. The whole thing was actually kind of . . . dare I say it? . . . fun. Afterward, people told us over and over how much they enjoyed it. We brought a spark of fun to an otherwise solemn early-morning session.
And that’s when I realized that fear is nothing more than a feeling. We feel it, the feeling is uncomfortable (even painful!), and we do everything to avoid it. That is our body’s natural response. But the message my coworker shared on stage—that risk is its own reward—is actually closer to the truth.
By stretching my wings in a challenging situation, I was able to dissolve the fear instead of running from it.
Maybe next time, I’ll get fear to run the other way first.
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What about you? How have you confronted a personal fear in order to express your creativity?