I have been on stage before, but I try not to ever think about it. Being on stage falls into the “things that keep me up at night cringing” category. I hate public speaking. I always have.
I’ve written before about my absolute terror of public speaking, Glossophobia if you want to get fancy about it, most recently in the post On Being Left-Handed. It is my least favorite thing in the world to do. I’m not irrationally afraid of heights, dentists, spiders or clowns, but you put me up on stage, and I go into a blind panic. I black out. I don’t remember a thing.
As I wrote about the other day in the post Secrets, I was a very shy child, but shy is an understatement. I was actually socially retarded and downright pathologically introverted. Nowadays, they have a term for it, Social Anxiety Disorder, and even medication that can help, but that didn’t exist when I was a kid. At least, it never occurred to anyone that I had it, badly. Speaking to people one on one was a horror for me, let alone being pushed on a stage where I had the spotlight. I don’t want the spotlight. You can have it. I’ll stay in the back row of the audience, keeping my head down so that no one notices me instead, thank you.
With a lot of hard work, I’ve since overcome my childhood shyness to some extent, but I still have the Glossophobia. I am perfectly comfortable talking to people now in an organic, conversational sort of way, but if I’m ever expected to perform, forget about it. I won’t do it.
A friend of mine had a story party once. Everyone was to bring their favorite story and retell it. If you’ve read this blog at all, you know that I have a lot of stories. I fancy myself a pretty good storyteller… on paper. In person, well, that might be different.
I’ve told stories as they cropped up in conversation, even to a whole group of people, but there was something about the “retell your favorite story” aspect of the invite that sent my limbs all a-quivering. It was the expectation of story telling that did it. I could walk into that same party and tell that same story to the same people as long as it was my choice, but the advance knowledge that I would be expected to or called upon to tell that story like a kid in speech class had me shaking. I never said it made any sense.
One of my most cringe-worthy moments involves public speaking. Actually, a lot of them do, but this time in particular makes my face squish up involuntarily when I think about it. I was at an event with audience participation. I avoid events with audience participation like the plague, but I didn’t know this particular event had that element to it or I never would have attended. I was sitting there with my friends when I noticed some people trolling around, scanning the audience, obviously looking for something. I subconsciously tried to hide, which of course, just made it all the more apparent that I was trying to hide. One of the trolling sadists noticed the reticence written all over me and decided to drag me up on stage, quite literally kicking and screaming. He paid no mind. I was to be a contestant on some sort of amateur game show. Great. So, now, not only do I have to be up on stage, but I have to actually answer questions? I’m expected to have knowledge inside my brainpan and be able to recall that knowledge at a moment’s notice all while I’m absolutely panicked because I’m on stage? This is unacceptable. I tried to leave, but they wouldn’t let me. I had been kidnapped. I have no idea what happened after that since I blacked out. I should sue them. I did win a prize though.
As most aspiring anythings (writers, musicians, actors) often do, I’ve thought about what would happen should I ever become famous through my craft. I don’t want to be famous. I can think of nothing worse. I’m happy with my private life. I’m thrilled that I can walk into a store and have no one recognize me. I don’t want to ever be a celebrity. So, the whole concept that I post my deepest darkest on the internet is quite the anomaly. I have a hard time reconciling it myself. I think it’s the anonymity that allows me to share. If that anonymity where ever quashed, I might not ever be able to write again.
This post is part of the On Being Series.