I have a hearing in less than two hours. I am writing you to spill my heart and in hopes that I put you to a resting space in the very back of my head. You have occupied a place at the very front for too long. The only reason I have not talked about you is that this profession that I am doing and that I work in doesn’t embrace you, silences you, works through you. I have worked through you for five years now and done well. Why expose you? Well – because I see you in so many others. We’ve been in this together for too long, but talked too little.
By long, I mean probably since I was born. I would not have known it then. No tell tale signs other than a father who was an overworrier but that’s what good fathers do. He probably had anxiety too but never told me and we will never be able to discuss it anymore.
I probably noticed you first when I was in those math for exceptional students realizing how unexceptional I was. Struggling to solve problems, with the tutor and the rest of the class near finished. Heart racing, sweaty, stumbling and mumbling my way through being asked to explain my reasoning.
I noticed you again with piano. I had dreams one day of being a great pianist but one day (and wasn’t half bad), as I was heading to the last grade of my studies, my teacher told my father – he’s got skill, but he’s got an issue handling pressure. Perhaps that comment (or pressure) led me to quit. Escape always on the mind.
I noticed you in high school. Every time I was to recite a poem or perform Shakespeare in front of an audience, you would kick in. Stage fright. Lines, what is the next line. I thought about all the classmates judging me for my failures, my less than stellar grades (a result of exam anxiety) also leading my parents to judge me. Trapped.
I remember in University, when I was to deliver an important part of a Fraternity ritual, I choked. I forgot my lines, in the darkness, my brothers in the room. I noticed you too when I was taking my driving test (one that took a few times to pass) I would sweat for days on in. In the back of my mind, this hearing, this case. I avoided you. I took on paper-based classes, courses that allowed me to organize things and work with my hands, because I knew if there was an exam or some sort of ‘test’ I would be hooped. The power of prediction let me somehow pass and move forward.
You kicked in with the LSAT. I have not told people this but the reasons I had to take the exam three times and still only scored a 66th percentile is you were always holding me down. I cancelled my result the first exam. The second time, I left half-way through after a panic attack mid-way through where I ended up mis-aligning my scantron. I remember googling a career in the military that evening, giving up. I am grateful that I never did.
And law school – I put my hands up only a handful of times because of you. My swallowed saliva still hurting from the things I have never said. I almost failed a PLTC assignment because I stuttered introducing my name and lost track of what I was saying while saying it. It’s like an out of body experience I cannot explain.
Everytime I present I have to hold a piece a paper, or some notes, because without the blanket I feel like I’m without a cable suspending me, a seat belt holding me in place. When I speak, I often go too fast, mind whizzing faster than the words can catch up. With the words I have I could be an amazing orator, but the pressure usually failst he performance.
I remember you this morning, telling me again that today’s another big day. Lives are at stake. Don’t fail.
Whatever I do as a parent, in this next life, I will present failure in a different light than I was taught. Failure is beauty waiting to happen. Success’s first step.
It was not easy to put this on paper. I am more public than most about my life because I read each of the emails and messages I get from readers finding a piece of what I am experiencing in what they do. I do overpost accomplishments likely to veil the moments in between where I feel in constant flux.
For example, I have been trying to write and start a novel for a year, but the fear of investing time into something I do not feel accomplished enough to write, holds me back. Reading the work of others and admiring their brilliance has been my coping mechanism. Coping is everything.
You are also a beautiful feeling because you open doors to empathy. I see you in the clients I advise, who struggle with anxiety due to their pending hearings, their lives at the whim of Government decision-makers, the effects of separation. It takes one to no one.
Yes – maybe I have let my guard down. Maybe some future client, employer, political, or judicial hiring committee looks at this tomorrow or twenty years from now and goes – I don’t want to take on the risk and imperfection.
Today I declare my imperfect self. Behind all of that perceived success, happy clients, speeches, and talks there is an anxious kid. The same anxious kid that has occupied this body for 31 years.
He will never be calm. His anxiousness leads to amazing spurts of creativity and brilliance. But he suffers every day for it too.
I accept you.