The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt 2/4/2016 | Naked with Black Socks
“Are you comfortable in front of people, or does the idea of public speaking make you want to hide in the bathroom? Why?”
My brain is complicated when it comes to my anxieties over people, and how I perform under pressure. Public speaking terrifies me. Speaking in a small group terrifies me. Speaking to someone one-on-one in a professional setting terrifies me, for example, if I am at an interview. Don’t even get me started on parties. I am a freaking turtle in her shell at parties. Despite my anxieties, I’m a pretty decent performer under pressure, especially when it comes to school. As long as I have something to focus on that is important to me, I’m usually able to able to conquer my anxieties, and come out on top… there is usually some sort of mini breakdown afterwards, but that is besides the point.
A good example of this is when I was a freshman in college. I was in an Environmental Sciences class, with mostly juniors and seniors, who were looking for easy science credits. I didn’t know anyone in the class, except for my then-boyfriend’s cousin, who really didn’t want anything to do with me. We were told to get into groups of four for group projects, and I just sat in the back, waiting for everyone to group up, so that I could join whoever was left.
The last 3 remaining were a group of girls, who I could tell right away felt that they had better things to do than be in the class. We introduced ourselves, and listened to the professor explain the project. Each group would pick a country out of a bowl, and we would have make a presentation on that country, including details about the economy, climate, religions, landmarks, etc. Each person in the group had to speak on a specific topic pertaining to the country, for 4-5 minutes, making the average group presentation about 16-20 minutes long. We would be presenting over the course of several days.
The entire time he spoke, I was sweating. I had never had to speak for more than 30-60 seconds in front of a group, and even then, it was usually a group of friends, or at least people I had known for a little while. My group seemed very disinterested, and I had a hard time getting their contact info so that we could work on our project together. They were all juniors and seniors, and none of them lived on campus, and when I suggested meeting in the library, they might as well have laughed in my face. Eventually, I convinced them that that was best, as I had no transportation off campus, and the library had a ton of resources for us to use.
In the following weeks, I realized that I was the only one in my group taking the project seriously. I was also the only one showing up to meetings. I would sit in the library, usually alone, unless my boyfriend came down to help me, working on my portion of the project, which was about the environment. Specifically, I was talking about the pollution of the Ganges River, and the endangered Ganges River Dolphin (oh, we got India, in case I didn’t mention that). My boyfriend even helped me sew a beautiful sari, which I spoke briefly about in the introduction of my part. I reached out to the other girls several times, asking them if they needed help, or if they wanted to meet to rehearse our projects, but they blew me off.
Twice, I worked with one of the girls from the group, who was doing her report on Mother Theresa. Each time, she brought her young toddler son, and spent more time playing/chasing him around, than working. I ended up doing a chunk of the research, and writing half of her speech, for her. I was so frustrated, because this was a GROUP project, meaning we all would share a grade, and I was the only one doing anything.
The day of my group’s presentation arrived, and I was surprised that the other girls even showed up. The first one to present spoke about India’s economy, and her bit lasted just over 3 minutes. She had no visuals, or anything else to go along with it. We were the last group of the day to present, and no one was paying attention at all. The second girl spoke very briefly about pollution, as well as the environment, which irritated me, because that was not her topic. It was mine. The other girls even gave me a look as if to say, “Um, did you know about this?” Her bit lasted just a few minutes, and just like the first girl, she had no visuals to go along with her presentation.
Then came the girl doing Mother Theresa. About 5 seconds into her presentation, she turned to the teacher, said that she didn’t feel well, and quickly ran from the room. That got everyone’s attention, and all eyes turned to me. I now had to make up a ridiculous amount of time, thanks to the slack of the first 3 in my group. Luckily, I was pretty prepared. I introduced myself, and spoke about the sari that I wore, my voice trembling slightly. More people started paying attention, interested in the garb. Even though their eyes were on me, I was elsewhere, somewhere inside my head. I needed to do well, because I was not about to fail this after working so hard. I also had a slideshow presentation, which went along with my note cards, and a trifold display board with pictures and facts. I was prepared, and it felt good.
I ended up speaking for a total of 7 minutes. After the first minute or so, I felt completely in control, and everything else faded away. My presentation could have been even longer, but class ended. Afterwards, my group left without a word, and the professor asked to see me for his office hours later in the day. When I went to see him, he told me that he would be grading me separately from my group, as he could see that I was the only one who put in any effort. I nearly cried. I candidly told him how it had been so difficult to get any of them to work with me, and he completely understood.
I received an overall score of 93/100 for my project, and ended the school year with an A- in the class. I never spoke to the other girls again after that class ended. Honestly, that was probably my proudest moment that whole year.
Thank you for reading, friends.