I never thought I'd find myself in this position.
I work a job right now that I never would've considered taking on my own. It's a job I sort of fell into - a position that God put in front of me that I didn't expect. And at the time, I didn't really want it, either. But I had bills to pay, and I knew that responsibility had to be placed ahead of my anxiety.
It's funny how God teaches us things whether we want to learn them or not. As you may or may not know, I'm a pretty socially awkward introvert. I keep to myself in public, I don't have many friends, and I spend a lot of time at home with Laura. There are those I've encountered throughout the course of my life who take that as arrogance, as though I think myself "too good" for them. On the contrary, I see myself as not good enough. I'm boring and plain. I don't drink. I'm not into the clubbing scene. I don't dine in fancy restaurants, and I'm not a concert goer. I like plain milk chocolate. Vanilla ice cream. T-shirts. The band Chicago. (That's the first time I've ever admitted that, by the way.)
I don't talk much about my non-writing work online for a couple of reasons. First off, I work for a well-known worldwide company, and privacy and security are two of the most important aspects of our business. Second, I prefer not to put too much of my private life out there. I've been with my employer since moving to St. Louis five years ago, and I hope to remain there for a long time to come. For that reason, as well as moral obligations, I won't divulge too many details. But what I can tell you is this: I make presentations to different groups of people on a near-constant basis, most of whom are initially complete strangers to me. That puts me in sort of a public-relations type of position that is quite different from my old retail jobs, a spot that does NOT suit an introvert in the least.
But as I said, sometimes God teaches us things whether we want to learn them or not.
In school, I was absolutely terrified if I had to do any sort of public speaking in front of the class. Oral reports were the worst - they may as well have been Armageddon as far as I was concerned. I didn't want people to look at me, I wanted to sit in the back quietly and be forgotten. There were times when the stress and anxiety made me want to throw up.
This past January, I spoke in front of an audience of nearly 80 people for a couple of hours. And I did it with relatively little anxiety, no speech or script planned, and everything went extremely well. I realize that 80 people wouldn't be considered a lot in the eyes of some, but there was a time not too long ago when I would've quit my job long before I got anywhere near that conference room.
Anyway, I don't tell you these things to pat myself on the back or solicit anyone's praise. I'm proud of the things I've accomplished, but I know there are millions out there who've done far greater and more important things with their lives than I ever will. I tell you these things because I want you to know something: If you run away from every situation that scares you, you could wind up closing doors on absolutely wonderful opportunities. If you let nerves stop you from doing something, if fear makes you cower in the corner, if challenges make you tuck your tail and run, you will never know what you are truly capable of. You will never learn, never grow, and never really feel a sense of accomplishment or satisfaction with your life.
Don't get me wrong - I totally understand the fear, especially when the critics in your life want to do nothing but bury you beneath it. I've covered in the corner more times than I can count, and when challenges come along, the instinct to run away is still the first thing that pops up. I'm still an introvert. I still prefer to stay home and avoid public places.
But if I need to do something that initially sparks those fears, I now find that there's a bravery just beyond the anxiety that I can call on when I need to. If I find out today that I've got to speak in front of a group of 100 tomorrow, I'll be OK with that. Not because I'm not scared, but because I allow God to put me in situations to teach me what I can accomplish. To show me what I can do. And if you never step out of that comfort zone, you'll never know what comfort really is.
Because the honest truth is that there's nothing more comforting than knowing you are no longer imprisoned by fear.