I have been thinking a bit about fear lately, and I don't mean in that new-agey "fear is the only thing holding you back from living the life you dream" kind of way, but in more of a real, concrete, my-guts-just-turned-to-water sort of way. Well, ok, maybe not like that either; I was once in a shop during a violent armed robbery, and so it's not the "Oh my god I think I am going to die" kind of fear that I'm talking about either.
At the moment there are two things in my life that are really challenging me to push past my fears, and they are a) public speaking in the form of giving conference papers; and b) roller derby (I know, who would've thought my whole "OMG I love it SOOOO much!" phase would ever end!).
Let's start with a), giving conference papers. This is not like drama, or debating, both of which I did with a total lack of self-consciousness during high school. It's not playing a role, or arguing for something spontaneously just for the sake of it. This is me, supposedly knowing what I'm talking about, and telling other people about it in an informed manner. Six months ago I heard of a conference called Oceanic Passages, and thought it would be a good opportunity to get onto the conference paper circuit. It's basically a career thing, giving me something to add to my CV and indicating that I'm ready to be taken seriously as a curator. Mind you, Oceanic Passages is not anything to do with my curatorial work, but I thought I could write and present something about my experiences in Tonga, and get a bit of practice. Sure, sure, 6 months ago it sounded like a GREAT idea. Then I started doing research into post-colonial theory and realised I was a bit out of my depth. Now I have reached the point where my presentation is in 2 weeks and I'm still trying to write the damn paper! The thought of getting up in front of a roomful of people (or a handful of people - better or worse??!) and putting forth my ideas about why cultural tourism in Tonga is failing is downright terrifying!
So to cap this one off, I also said yes to speaking at a Symposium about the Museum's Melbourne-Cup related collections in August, and another yet-to-be-determined topic at a conference in November. Brilliant! Because if you look at all the advice about dealing with fear, they say facing your fears is the only way to get over them, right? Not that I'd like to be in another armed robbery, or driving off a cliff into water, or attacked by a giant spider, or any of my other assorted fears!
Now, for roller derby. What am I scared of there? Well, for a start, we've moved on from the learning how to skate part of things, which was really fun. Now we're doing drills that are all about THE GAME, and I'm thinking maybe I don't actually want to play the game, maybe I just wanted to learn to skate - which, in all honesty, was what I said when I signed up for Fresh Meat. But on a deeper level, I am still a lot more comfortable doing drills that involve just me - it's the pack work and the pair work that make me feel anxious. Because I don't LIKE relying on other people. And I've never played team sports, either. Hell, I'm an only child, and there totally is an I in that team name (Isa), a team of just me.
Oh, and I'm also scared of going fast on my skates. I don't like feeling 'out of control'. When I was a teenager I loved that shit - craved it. Spent so much of my time looking for new and illegal ways to loose control. But I'm older and wiser and far more of a control-freak now!
I'm dealing with both of these fears by facing them, but I have to say that the idea that as soon as you face your fear it vanishes is a platitude; it takes a lot more work than that! Now if you'll excuse me, I have a conference paper to write.