Hello anxiety

Yes, that is a plug for Guineafowl.

Indie music aside, it’s been a helluva week, and study tools #2 is being set back ‘till next week’ yet again.

You see, yesterday, I had my thesis proposal seminar.

I’ve got some pretty mixed feelings about the whole process. So mixed that you could probably drink them for breakfast as a smoothie.

On the one hand, I can understand why my institution wants to make sure they haven’t been waiving my program fees for nothing (no thanks to the Abbott administration, but we’ll leave that one alone for now). I can also recognise that it’s a good idea to force graduate students to actually organise their ideas and research objectives, and that milestones are an important and necessary means of forcing hermits like me out of their offices and into the local academic community.

On the other, apart from acting as exposure therapy for my phobia of public speaking, I’m not sure it was very useful. I work somewhere in the amorphous disciplinary bubble of history, literature, and translation studies. I’m only six months into my translation, and it is most definitely Not Finished. I don’t even have a complete first draft yet. The longer I spend with the damn thing, the more certain I become that the reason no one’s ever done it before it because it’s HARD. I’m not even entirely sure what it’s about.

So for me, it was more of a necessary embarrassment than a seminar. I suspect that if I had simply sat there and dribbled at my audience, I would have been a little more eloquent than I ended up being. It was sort of amazing, actually: I’m not used to that sense of disembodiment. The things that can come out of your mouth while you’re busy trying to convince yourself that you’re not going to die of shame…

Actually, I probably shouldn’t joke about that. I can be glib now that it’s over, but the fear and anxiety that were building up beforehand were quite severe, and very unpleasant.

In case you hadn’t quite gotten the impression that I hate public speaking, let me make it absolutely clear: I hate public speaking.

I’m not sure what it is about standing up (or even sitting down) in front of a group of people that makes me so deeply uncomfortable. As it turned out, at my seminar, I knew almost everyone there on a first-name basis. They were all people I liked; people who were interested; people sympathetic to my project and ideas. Yet their eyes settled on me, and I felt The Fear.

That evening, my patient and long-suffering girlfriend brought home a cherry pie to congratulate me on confronting The Fear, and, stuffing my face with cherry goodness, I proceeded to whine about my hatred of presentations.

She listened thoughtfully to my diatribe, and, when I had finished, she nodded and said, ‘You should probably lecture.’

And I think she’s right. I probably should, because public speaking, like any skill, is something you get better at through regular practice.

I am at the other end of the spectrum—that was the first presentation I have given in at least two years.

I want to put it out there that I’m relieved that it’s over, but I don’t think it went very well. I had a great turn-out, but I spoke poorly; I had some excellent questions, to which I couldn’t give satisfactory answers. But I guess that’s kind of the point.

I haven’t exactly been filled with the flames of passion for public speaking. I’m not ready to trot out onto a stage and have at the three minute thesis competition.

Brace yourselves—I’m going to finish with a motivational quote. You know, the one Stanislas Wawrinka got tattooed on his left arm. Samuel Beckett:

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.


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