At my current job we recently started a Toastmasters club and I'm scheduled to give my first prepared speech next week. The topic? Icebreaker! I just have to talk about myself for 4-6 minutes. I'm typically much better at just winging it but in this case I actually wrote something down. And this is it. It's about courage. And bravery. And getting over fear.
If you had told me 10 years ago that I would live in an apartment in Chicago, take public transit to work, and take my dog to a dog park with a view of the Sears Tower I would not have believed you. In fact, I once proclaimed that if I had to live in Chicago I would vomit.
But here I am and there’s no vomit!
Growing up in Champaign, Illinois you had to work hard to find an adventure. Our idea of being daring was hanging out in public parks after dark. In college at Miami University I was more inclined to stay in and watch X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes until my roommates and I could quote them verbatim. The most interesting story I had to tell about myself was that I was once in a car accident where my car was hit by a hearse. There wasn't even a body in the hearse!
I wasn't one of those people who graduated and couldn't wait to move to the big city. In fact, I’m still not sure what possessed me to apply for and accept the job that brought me to Chicago.
However, I knew that it was a chance for me to break out of my comfort zone. To try and find my inner adventurer.
Looking back over the past 6 years since I moved to Chicago I've realized that there are 4 main steps to becoming more adventurous.
Step 1: Join something. For me that was a running group. I’d started running in 2007 and in 2009 I decided to train for my first half marathon. I went to my first Monday night run with the Oak Park Runners Club with knots in my stomach. I didn't know anyone. What if they were all faster than me? What if no one talked to me? Those fears were unfounded, though, and I quickly found myself with a new group of friends. In fact, I had more friends that I had back in Champaign and we were doing things such as going out to dinner together and even traveling to Las Vegas to run a marathon together!
Step 2: Say yes. When my running group friends asked me to go to Las Vegas and run the marathon to celebrate their wedding anniversary I could have said no. But I didn’t. I said yes. In fact, saying yes became my mantra. I joined the executive board of both the running club and Chicago chapter of the Association of Records Managers and Administrators. Yes, such a thing exists. I started a running blog and made dates to run with other bloggers who I’d never met before. My comfort zone began to grow as I invited more people to be part of my life.
Step 3: I’m sure you've heard the saying “do one thing every day that scares you.” I wouldn't say that I did one thing every day, but part of my saying yes mantra was trying scary things when the opportunity arose. Which means when Living Social sent me a deal for flying trapeze class or a trip to a shooting range in Michigan I said yes to both even though I was simultaneously terrified and intrigued. I ended up taking flying trapeze classes for a year and my husband and I now go to the shooting range every few months. Just like living in Chicago, if you’d asked me about either of those 10 years ago I would have laughed.
Step 4: Put yourself out there. Joining that running group was my first step into the world of attending group events where I wouldn't know anyone else. When I started my other blog in 2012 it came with more visibility and more opportunities to meet people in Chicago because I joined other blogger networks. My mother doesn't understand the appeal of writing about yourself on the internet but I’ll tell you this: some of my best friends I've met through my blogs. I have the opportunity to attend events in places I never would have known about. The word “networking” no longer strikes fear into my heart.
My birthday is Monday and as I reflect on the past 35 years I know that I’m definitely more adventurous than I was 10 years ago. Joining groups, saying yes to events, going even though I was scared and putting myself out there to meet others all lead me to realize that fear does not have to hold you back. Which is why for 2015 I've signed up for my first triathlon and start coached swim lessons on Monday. Let's start my 35th year by continuing to be adventurous!