Eesh, good luck, buddy!
Shyness is a comforting and useful “tool” for lack of a better word, and my instincts for a long time sided with shyness and caution, and there’s a lot of merit to that. Let’s talk about some things that my shyness, nervousness or anxiety accomplished for me:
They have, without question, resulted in me being comfortable, I won’t pretend that they didn’t. I’d be in class, in college, listening to a bunch of people talk about something that I didn’t agree with and I’d think “Maybe I should interject,” and then I’d remember that I’m probably the only one with my opinion and it wouldn’t help anyone if I rocked the boat, and anyway if all of these people thought the same way they were probably right, so shush, Daniel. And boy, sitting in a classroom quietly will always feel more comfortable than having a bunch of eyes on you when you’re saying something you know a bunch of people won’t like. And that comfort is nice and reassuring. Mmmmm, tasty comfort.
Or I’d see a cute girl reading a book at my coffee shop [or bar or office or The World] and think “Maybe I should introduce myself and find out what she likes,” and then instead I’d ultimately choose to read my own book and, sure, sitting on my own without having to talk to someone new who could potentially hurt my feelings, I didn’t start breathing fast and I didn’t start sweating and I felt very comfortable, so much more comfortable than if I’d tried to stutter my way through an introduction.
Or I’d have an idea for an article and I’d write it up and I’d consider submitting it to a magazine I liked, but then I’d imagine the cold, rejection letter that could potentially follow. And I’d think about how depressed that could make me, how embarrassed I’d feel, how maybe the rejection would sting so hard that I’d quit writing altogether. And then I’d decide “Nah, this is another one just for ME. Not going to submit it.” And, PHEW, what a sigh of relief! It’s legitimately comforting and wonderful.
But I should be clear right now, I don’t actually remember any of those things. I don’t remember sitting quietly in class. And I don’t remember not approaching the cute girl at the [insert place], and I can’t remember the names of any of the magazines I didn’t submit to. Which isn’t to say that those things didn’t happen; I’m positive that they did. I’m sure that they happened a bunch of times, I just don’t remember them with any clarity.
I can’t remember specific examples where I bit my tongue in class, but I remember how amazing/terrifying it felt to be the first one in a room saying “Wait, let’s rethink this,” and people listened.
I don’t remember every interesting woman I didn’t talk to, but I remember the smile of every single one that I was (temporarily) brave enough to try to make laugh.
I was too nervous to submit probably 200 articles or short stories or one-act-plays to websites, magazines and contests. I don’t remember any of those pieces of content (or the names of any of the sites, magazines or contest). What I DO remember, with eternal specificity, is the first article I had submitted, completely cold, to Cracked. The rough draft was written in red pen in one of those College Ruled notebooks. I wrote it when I should have been paying attention in Astronomy, a Summer Semester class I was taking my junior year of college. I typed it up when I went home that night and submitted it. The minute it was accepted by then-editor Jay Pinkerton, I told my big brothers, and then I took out my friends Joe and Jaclyn for a late night snack of cream-of-turkey soup at our favorite piece-of-shit diner to tell them the good news, and then a few days later I told my Mom because she seemed bummed that day and I thought it might cheer her up (I originally planned to keep my Cracked writing a secret from her, because there were curse-words in it and I didn’t want to upset/embarrass her. For the record, when I DID tell her I’d sold my first article, her response was “I’m sure they’ll buy more and more articles and then just hire you full-time,” and then of course that happened, because Moms know more than us).
It may not have been comfortable, but I sure do remember it, and other moments like it. In fact, before falling asleep at night, I have never comforted myself with idle thoughts of the chances I didn’t take. Even when things DON’T work out, it’s more fun to relive the chances you took than it is to dwell on the ones you didn’t.
Anytime you do something like that, something that scares you or makes you breathe fast, you’re going to feel uncomfortable. But, I don’t know. Do you think you were put on this big, silly Earth to sit around being comfortable?