Mia: Shaken Not Stirred

The true life stories of a NYC female.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Scared Crapless But Feeling Good

I hate public speaking, my stomach knots up and hand to God my IQ drops by at least 20 points. Last night I had to present my research paper, this would be the same paper my professor thought I'd purchased last week when I handed it in to him. I knew I had something to prove last night and even though I'd done nothing wrong I was scared crapless and yet felt good about having the opportunity to prove myself. I'm twisted like that.

Even though he’d backed off after discussing the paper with me I felt that he wasn’t really 100% sure that the paper I’d given him had been written by me. I had this feeling deep in my gut that he was expecting me to trip up and prove his suspicions about me. I went in with prepared notes but in the end I was just too nervous to look at them. Instead I spoke off the top of my head.

My topic was on the stigmatization of mental illness in women of a specific religious community and the reasons behind the reluctance of the afflicted individuals and their families to seek outside help.I stood in front of the class and prsented my paper, explained my research methods, my data, and why the subject was important to me all the while the professor stared me down. He seemed to be reading from something and every now and then he’d write something down. It felt as if he were giving me an on the spot review. I was the only student he did this for. I decided to focus on him as I spoke. I did this for several reasons one because he’d been the one to doubt my work and I was still pissed off about that and secondly because …well because I wanted him to understand that I wasn’t afraid of him that he wasn’t going to intimidate me into doubting myself. As I got into the paper I noticed that the professor’s facial expressions changed. He went from grim to interested pretty quickly and seemed impressed by my knowledge of the subject and how I’d used my ties to the community I was writing about to facilitate my research.

The presentation went really well better than I expected. The students were really interested in the subject and kept me up at the podium longer than they had anyone else asking me questions and discussing my paper. I saw the look of surprise on his face when I explained in response to a question that I’d become interested in the subject as a result of my travels. When I stepped off the podium the students startled me by breaking out into spontaneous applause. okay they really liked the paper. When I reached my seat my friend leaned over and asked how I felt, “I was scared crapless.” I said. “You’d never know it, you looked confident and in control up there.” “Get out, I did?” “Yes” she said. “Did you know your voice changes?” she asked. “Huh?” “Yeah it gets deeper and you sound all professional and scholarly.” When the next student approached the podium I noticed the professor was still looking at me. He bowed his head and smiled at me. I think I’d surprised him and whatever doubt he held about me was dispelled.

I started humming "Feeling Good" by The Muse as I got my stuff together to leave. It took an enormous amount of self-control to stop myself from doing a sultry victory dance as I left the class room.

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