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  • I don’t know if I am shy because I’m a writer, or if I’m a writer because I’m shy. One could have easily sprung out of the other, or they could have grown up side-by-side within me during my hazy formative years. Regardless, being a writer is a fitting occupation for someone like me. No one notices writers within the flow of everyday life. No one stops them on the street and asks “Hey, aren’t you….?” There are no news stories on Toni Morrison’s latest haircut or tabloid articles about Barbara Kingsolver’s love life. Writers can blend into the world which they quietly observe. When I write, it is my words that take center stage, not me. I put them forward into the spotlight, step back, and watch them shine, and I am happy.

    However, fear of public speaking is a terrible thing to have when one is also training to be a teacher.

    I failed my microteach lesson today. I froze up at the beginning and couldn’t remember any of the points which I had laid out on paper earlier. When I finally got the lesson back together, one of my classmates, acting the part of a student, raised her hand to say that they didn’t understand. I asked them which part they didn’t understand, and they were silent. I waited, sweeping my eyes back and forth across the classroom, but everyone was lost in apathy. They wouldn’t tell me. I realized as they stared at me and I stared back at them that they had no stake in whether I succeeded or failed. My professor told me after everyone else had left that it was a ‘learning experience,’ which meant that I should try not to suck so badly next time.

    Tonight I snuck into my college’s auditorium like a scared rabbit, twitching at every noise and trying to hide inside my coat. I climbed up on the empty stage, terrifying in its brightness, and stared out at the rows and rows of vacant seats. I tried four times to make my voice come out. The first word was awful; the first sentence was grating. I recited poetry, starting with Langston Hughes’ I, Too, Sing America and ending with Li Po’s The River Merchant’s Wife. I did it over and over again, louder each time, slower, more expressive, demanding absolute effort from myself. I took off my heavy shoes and forced my feet to walk back and forth across the stage. I gestured. I enunciated. I listened to the inflections of my voice, and heard it rolling out over the auditorium and pressing up against the windows in the back. I loved the words, and slowly, I began to feel my desire to present them for understanding overcoming my fear of the lights and the people who were not there.

    I think that’s the secret that I’m missing. You have to love people enough to want to raise them to understanding from the very core of your soul. You have to love them more than you are afraid of them. You have to desire their betterment so deeply that you forget to think of yourself; that your self-consciousness is extinguished within you. You have to love knowledge, art, and truth enough to believe that they are more worthy of your attention than fear.

    Practice makes perfect.
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