Performance anxiety

I didn’t think it was going to work.

I didn’t think it was going to work.

I sat in my office, my trainee Ranya sitting across from me. Our appointment (well, my appointment, but she was shadowing me for everything, so) was here, and waiting in the lobby.

I’d said “yes” to Mike and Leah without REALLY knowing what I was getting into. MC, at a wedding reception? Sounded like something I could do, right? Stand up in front of people, keep the wheels going?  

God bless the internet, and Google. Without it, I’m not nearly as smart a man as I appear to be. I’d found a lot of good pointers, written down bits on cue cards, even started practicing in front of mirror. Names, keeping the eyes up, looking over a room. Did I know the names? What was the order? I would figure that out. I hope.

Ranya and I had broken down the appointment already, me reviewing with her what our customer was here for, and what we were probably going to do. Our preparation hadn’t long, but that was mostly because I’d analyzed it already, based on the information we had. We weren’t going to be able to help our client- at least, not how she (probably) wanted.

That was experience talking, as I briefed my trainee: I’d done this before, seen the markers, and knew where it would go. Given what I knew about the situation (and the lady in question), I didn’t anticipate it being pleasant.

I threw up, at some point.

It was a couple of nights before the reception. I’d been practicing a transition from one speech to the next, typed on the computer, selecting words and mannerisms carefully. I remember the anxiety crushing me then,  for some reason. I ran to the bathroom, and felt physically overwhelmed as I vomited into the toilet,  shuddering in deep, gasping breaths as I gathered myself. The fear ran wild, then, my heart racing, panicking in a way I’d never known, and for reasons I couldn’t figure out. Why here, and now? I had this, didn’t I?

I found Dennis, we talked it out as I calmed down, and I settled back into the work. These were my friends I was doing this for. They’d asked me to do this, and I would. This moment, this nervous desperation, would be far away, on what was going to a great day for them. I prepared, as much as I ever had. Practiced movements, sayings, words, names, until they became rote, until it was instinct.

It didn’t matter how many classes I’d taken, how many courses I’d do on the inevitability of saying “no” to someone occasionally at the bank, I’ve never gotten good at it. I’ve gotten BETTER at it- and at knowing that, often times, it’s not something we can do a lot about, or should feel the need to take responsibility for. But there’s something about that which drills down to the very core of me. It’s a weakness, most times. Wanting to do well for someone else is good; wanting to do it when it isn’t the right thing is bad. Why am I this way?

The day came, and Mike and Leah’s wedding went off without a hitch. There was some time between the wedding and the reception, and I remember coming home for a bit. It was an awkward amount of time; I wasn’t needed for photos, which gave me some time to think.

I tried to watch baseball on the television, but turned it off,  finding myself unable to focus. There was rain falling off the window as I looked outside, and gathered myself, letting my thoughts pass through. I remembered the anxiety of a couple of nights prior, the fear, but it was a memory. 

Preparation had been my ally, drive and determination there with it. I wanted to do this, for them.  And I would.

Eventually, I took a breath. It had been a couple of minutes, and our lady had been waiting long enough. I got up, and walked to the door. I must have been wearing my discomfort on my face, because Ranya seemed concerned. “Are you ready?” she asked before I reached the door.

I had the door handle in my hand as I turned to her. I might have smiled, amused- that would have been perfect, wouldn’t it?

“No,” I said, and opened it up to go get our client.

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