Developing from the Negatives

27 Jan

Alright, everyone, gather ‘round. It’s story time.

Once upon a time in middle school I was selected to participate in the “Mock Trial,” a grand event that was held every year to introduce students to the judicial system, court trials, and, of course, public speaking in front of the entire seventh grade.  Many of my team members (particularly those destined for AP Government in high school) were thrilled to be selected. I, on the other hand, was absolutely mortified.

However, determined to uphold my responsibility to my team, I practiced and practiced my role for weeks.I was to close the trial with the “final statement,” meaning I would be the last person to speak (great). I would like to say this story ends with me valiantly marching on that stage, entrancing the audience with my words, and overcoming my fear of public speaking with cinematic-like panache, but unfortunately it ends with me freezing in front of the auditorium, actually crying, and then running off stage. Thus began a deep rooted fear for many years to come.

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But, I promise, this story gets better.

Fast forward to my freshman year in college: I am a brand spankin’ new Wildcat and, yes, still terrified of public speaking. Perhaps some of you can relate to the tell-tale symptoms of this particular phobia—you know, the physical shaking, the uncomfortable pressure in your chest, a wobbly voice that sounds like you are so inspired by your own presentation that you can’t help but cry…it’s unpleasant, it’s embarrassing, and most of all, it is absolutely frustrating. I was exhausted from being afraid. I needed to do something about it.

That year I was member to a freshman skills workshop (perhaps some of you are in Prodigy?). It was facilitated by an upperclassman “peer advisor.” This person had to stand up in front of twenty or so people every week presenting information in a thoughtful, well-organized way. I remember thinking, “That is what I want to be able to do.” I knew it was a skill I would need. And I knew it was a skill that, for me, was painfully underdeveloped. So, I applied to be a peer advisor—a decision completely against my previous nature. Much to my surprise, not only did I get the job, I really enjoyed it!

Now, again, this doesn’t end with an automatic fairytale ending. My first week I was shaking like crazy. The next week, my stomach was still churning. The third, my knees were still a little unstable.  But with each week, my “symptoms” became less and less overpowering. The more I stepped right back into my past’s nightmare, the more my present experience took its place. My confidence grew and my understanding that I could, in fact, do my job (and do it well) became less of a dream and more of a reality. I think a key factor was that this had been my choice. I wasn’t being forced by a class or for a grade or to fulfill some requirement. This was my “extracurricular challenge” and it allowed me to take some ownership over my reactions to these experiences.30-rock.jpg

Fast forward again to the present (welcome back from your trip into my past!). It’s three years later and I’m still living the peer advisor life, but I also have extended my new found abilities beyond this position. I have sought out different internships, other jobs that challenge me, and have even given some pretty okay presentations in class. When I think about the moments where I “re-focused” my life, I think about when I developed aspects about myself that I didn’t know I had, but saw myself having.

Okay, now it’s your turn. Think of blurry photo…think of a grainy, washed-out picture you took on your phone. Now, click “edit.” Zoom in, add filters, add text, crop unwanted portions out. Add some contrast, highlight little bits here and there, or delete it altogether and take a new one. Suddenly your picture is Facebook-worthy and, oh just you wait, you are going to get so many likes!

In the next couple of years, you will have those same opportunities in your life to add, modify, and adjust. You will have some negatives along the way, too. We all do. Develop from them! Capture those moments. When you look back, your collection will tell a story completely your own and it will likely be something you’re proud of. Just like an image, nothing is permanent (well, unless you put it on the Internet…), and changing into the person you want to be can happen in a flash. Get the picture?

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–Franny Caputa

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One Response to “Developing from the Negatives”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Wildcat Connections: Refocus on What Matters | Student Affairs Outreach - January 28, 2014

    […] experience the spring semester from all angles. Perhaps you want to step out of your comfort zone like Franny. You can also reconnect with all our campus has to offer at “New Year + New You” this […]

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