Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Neighbor Cousins: It’s a Small World After All

It’s going to take me a hot minute to get to the exciting point of this post, but I just want to start from the beginning of how life lead me from Alabama to ending up across the street from unknown family. After all, it’s not every day coincidences THIS BIG happen.

Our move from Alabama to Tennessee was very calculated and spontaneous at the same time. Joe's job, several jobs ago in 2005, is what brought us to Birmingham. It was chosen for us and made sense at the time, but we never felt like that's where we'd stay forever. It never truly felt like home even though we had made close friends and had all of our children there. A few years ago we began discussing where we'd want to live if we left Alabama. We were getting to a point where we could choose within a 9-state region where we'd want to go. We started making exploratory trips to some cities Joe could see us in based on his work travels. Charlotte, NC, Nashville, TN and Knoxville, TN became our Top 3. The Carolinas were intriguing, but that would take us further away from my parents; we wanted a place that would get us closer to both sets of parents. Tennessee would do just that and after visiting Knoxville 3 or 4 times we realized we got the warm fuzzies every time. It seemed right. Having been discussing this move and making these trips over a course of a couple years, my back thoughts definitely went to Is this really going to happen? Are we all talk and no action? If we were going to move I wanted it to take place before our oldest started Kindergarten and here we were with our oldest in 4K and me pregnant with #3. We decided the first step of no turning back was to begin packing up boxes for storage to declutter. We had also been looking at houses in Knoxville on Zillow, but we couldn't really do much about it because we were 4 hours away, Joe was always traveling and I was super preggers. The baby came earlier than expected (December) so we decided we'd put our house on the market in February or March. We had a realtor come out to appraise our house in February so we would be prepared for when we were ready. The next week he called us and said "I know your house isn't on the market yet, but I think it is exactly what one of my clients is looking for. Would you mind if I showed it to them tomorrow?" We spent the next day locking kids in bedrooms and cleaning furiously. We went across the street to the park while it showed and one hour later they put an offer on it. The only stipulation was they needed to move in 17 days later!! So we went from house not on market yet to we have 17 days to get out in the course of an hour. Looking back I have no idea how we made that happen, but with a 5-year old, a 2-year old and a 3-month old we packed up our house ourselves, got an apartment leased, moved stuff from a Birmingham storage unit to a Knoxville storage unit, packed up what we would need for an unknown amount of time in an apartment and took 3 trips with a moving truck. But we made it! What's crazy is as we pulled away from the first house we ever owned together, a house we had spent 12 years in, the house we brought all 3 kids home from the hospital to, I wasn't sad. I thought I'd be silently weeping as we pulled away, but when the time came it was more like "Bye house!" It was a sign to me that we were making the right decision. I wasn't sad about what we were driving away from; I was excited about what we were driving towards.

Once we closed on our old house, got the apartment feeling like a temporary home (first floor bugs and all) and got a better feel for Knoxville roads on a daily basis we began looking more seriously for homes. Between open houses, developing neighborhood builders and showings with our realtor we probably looked at 50+ homes. We were "those" people. But in our defense the first two houses we put contracts on fell through. The first one had a bad inspection so we backed out, not wanting to deal with all of its issues. The second one was in perfect shape, but I didn’t feel it was the right house and the appraisal came back way lower than the accepted offer allowing us to back out again. In this house-buying case the third time was the charm. We found a house that was on the same street as the first house we had a contract on and jumped on it. We felt like we had been in the apartment forever, but 4 months after moving to Knoxville we moved into our new home. Within days we had multiple neighbors come over and introduce themselves, bring baked goods and buckets of goodies. It was a nice welcome compared to our last house.

The first neighbor to ring our bell was a man named Tony. He introduced himself, let us know he was right across the street and offered to help us with anything right there in the moment.  I had one huge heavy box in my son's bedroom that needed to go in the attic so I asked if he could help my husband take that up. He obliged and as he was leaving, his wife, Monica, came over so we got to chat with her a bit. Super nice people and we found out she also used to live in our hometown. Small world! She was a few years older than us and moved to Florida during her childhood so we assumed we didn’t have any mutual connections. That was that. They walked back to their house across the street and Joe and I agreed they were very nice people and we should hang out with them sometime.

Two months later we decided to have a pool party during Labor Day weekend, inviting all the neighbors we had met, including Tony and Monica (who we hadn’t seen since that introduction). She texted me to say they’d stop by and for whatever reason, before I replied back, I decided to look her up on Facebook. Her name was listed with both her maiden and married names and my jaw dropped when I saw her maiden name. It was the same uncommon name as my grandparents. I checked out our mutual friends and we had two - my grandma and one of my step-cousins. My text reply went something like this:

That's great and all, but hold up. I just looked you up on Facebook and saw your maiden name. Was your dad or grandpa's name Bill? I think we're family! Let me know when you can talk.

She let me know that she had an uncle and a grandpa named Bill. It was at that moment we realized we had the same grandparents! We then shared our matching wedding photos where we were standing next to the same grandparents. Our grandma was even wearing the same dress to both our weddings 6 years apart! We were absolutely floored and in disbelief. At first I was trying to think of the term we would use for our newfound relation - step-cousins-in-law-once-removed, second step-cousins, step-cousins-twice-removed... Then it dawned on me how close we were  - we are just step-cousins! Her dad and my mom are step-brother/sister. Since our original grandparents divorced and remarried when our parents were older and starting families of their own there wasn’t much communication between the new step-siblings so we never even knew each other existed! And here we are living across the street from each other! If they had never introduced themselves I would not know their names, I wouldn't have looked them up on Facebook and we could have gone years living across the street not knowing I had a neighbor cousin! What a fortunate thing we discovered only months after moving in.

The reason I went into so much detail is to show how God works in amazing ways. There were SO many things that could have deterred this from happening. We talked for years about moving, but chose the most hectic time in our lives to go through with it...the decision to choose Knoxville over all the other cities in a 9-state region...the quick not-even-on-the-market sale of our home jumping our timeline forward...the 2 other houses we had contracts on that fell through that we almost ended up at instead...even the other house on our street was further down so they probably would not have introduced themselves...the voided contracts pushing our timeline back to a point that we were still looking when our current house went on the market. Add the fact that Monica was thinking about moving, partially due to the previous owners of our house...and her prayers for nice neighbors to replace them when they put up a sale sign...and the generosity of them being the first people to welcome us to the neighborhood. It’s hard to think this wasn’t meant to happen. Now we watch The Bachelor together, and play Bunco together, and her daughter babysits our kids, and she decorated pumpkins with my daughters, and we’ve hung out together with our grandma, and I’ve met my step-uncle (her dad) and she’s met her step-aunt (my mom), and we laugh together, and we complain together, and we wave through our windshields as we pass each other. And we still get goosebumps when we tell our story.




Thursday, October 15, 2015

My Path To Becoming An Author (Part 3)


It’s amazing how little I accomplish when Mother’s Day Out closes up shop for four months.  Although I meant to keep up momentum on getting my book published and blogging about it, the whole process pretty much went on freeze for the summer.  But I’ve got my 12 hours a week back to focus on me and I plan to cram what I can during those three 4-hour spurts of my week.

To catch up on my journey, here are Part 1 and Part 2.

Before just sending off my manuscript to publishers I found online, I wanted to be prepared and knowledgeable about this industry, which meant do some research and get involved.  First I signed up with SCBWI - Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.  It cost a bit of money (under $100/yr) but it includes a ton of resources, has regional chapters that host local events, features newly published writers and illustrators that are SCBWI members, hosts virtual book launch parties, discussion boards, contests, has informative podcasts and many helpful links.  At a membership of over 22,000 I am once again reminded that I am anything but alone in my ventures.  

After getting involved I needed to get educated.  I think it usually goes the other way around, but doing things backwards keeps things interesting.  I have some publishing books from forever ago, but given the ever-changing landscape of the publishing industry I needed some modern-era guidance, so I bought two new books - 2015 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market and 2015 Guide to Literary Agents.  The purchase of these books also allowed me to get a free 1-year online subscription to the Writer’s Market.  (The only negative to that is they send at least 3 emails a day, which is kind of ridiculous).  The first of those books has been extremely informational and encouraging.  From telling you how to write a query to interviews with first time authors to an index of hundreds of publishers, it’s given me the resources I need to get started on my dream while keeping me inspired with other author stories.  Reading these books and listening to podcasts such as Brain Burps and SCBWI Conversations is helping to improve my industry vocabulary, get tips from professional writers and publishers, and keep me on track and motivated.

I have filed for copyright at eco.copyright.gov.

I have entered two contests with my book – one through Writers Market (didn’t win anything) and one through SCBWI (still waiting). 

I have sat in libraries and bookstores looking at #1 Bestsellers to see what’s hot right now in children’s book literature.  Some I like, some I don’t. 

I have also searched for books that are comparable to mine because I will need to list these in future queries and proposals.

I have created quite the spreadsheet of Publishers and all the information I could gather on them to see where I should start sending manuscripts and queries.  Who takes agented vs unagented, solicited manuscripts vs unsolicited manuscripts, response length, royalties, % taken from first time authors, publish time, # of illustrators they work with, # of titles they publish per year – all factors in my decision of who I send to first, second, third, and so on. 
Yes I eat candy while I work.

I have continued coming up with other book ideas, although I haven’t started writing manuscripts for them yet.  I’m really good at coming up with original ideas.  I’m really bad at sitting down and figuring out how the story should go.

I have a list of the top self-publishers in case it comes down to that.

I’m blogging about my journey in hopes other first-time writers may come across it so we can learn from each other.

I’ve started an ongoing list of questions for an editor or agent to answer.

I’ve studied legal and protection terms.

And this weekend I will be attending my first ever writers conference.  I am extremely excited to learn from authors, illustrators, publishers, editors, agents and other industry professionals as well as get to know some other people in my regional chapter of SCBWI who are just starting out like me.  I also paid extra for an editor or agent to critique my manuscript.  I will also get a free critique from the contest judging panel.  I’m very anxious to see what they say…I just hope they’re gentle with their words.

I realize this isn’t the most entertaining blog I’ve ever written, but I truly want to find others out there that I can learn from and connect with who are in the beginning stages like me.  I’ve put a lot of time into everything listed above and I hope these steps I’m taking can help someone else just getting started too. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

What Makes You Forget To Eat and Poop?



"What to do when you don't know what to do with your life."

That's the depressing phrase I typed into the Google search bar on a recent trip to Florida.  Don't get me wrong - I am loving my life.  My marriage is great, my daughter is happy and healthy, I don't have the stress of a professional job, I get to wear sports bras every day (or no bra if I'm home all day), we have food on the table, we see distant family fairly often, I have time to enjoy my hobbies...I really could go on and on.  I feel very blessed and happy.  But I still had this lingering question looming over me.  I was 33 and still didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up.  One day our child (hopefully children) will be in school full time and at this point I plan on going back to work, but to what?  I put 10 years into media/marketing/advertising/sales and am not up for going back to that.  My degree in TV Production still excites me, but I'm afraid I'm too far removed from the technical side having not used that equipment and software for so long.  I don't want to go back into something that would make me miserable, nor do I want to start over in an industry where I had once climbed up many rungs of the ladder.  I know what to expect going back to the workforce after being a stay at home mom.  It's grim.  And if I'm going to start at the bottom I'd rather start in something new that I enjoy rather than something I've already done that stressed me out.  So back to my Google search.  I clicked on a few links that lead me to articles written by psychiatrists who asked ridiculously zealous questions like "what's your purpose on this earth" or "what were you meant to do."  These questions were too broad and the answers are what I was hoping the Internet could miraculously tell me.  Then I saw a link that read 7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose.  It wasn't much different than what a lot of other links said but I clicked on it anyways and discovered Mark Manson.

I've since read a lot of his articles but I want to focus on this one because it was a good one for me to land on.  Instead of asking me overly ambitious questions that I couldn't answer about even myself, he asked questions that were on my level of mediocre intellect.  Questions such as "What's your favorite shit sandwich?" and "What makes you forget to eat and poop?"  These were questions I could answer!  And I actually sat down at my computer and spent a couple hours thinking and typing out my answers.  Pretty much every one of my answers had to do with writing in some capacity.  But the questions are written in a way that would help anyone no matter their interests.  If you still ask yourself, "what do I want to be when I grow up," even if you're 60, spending quality time on these 7 questions may truly benefit you.  If you choose to check his link out and answer his questions I'd love to hear what you find out about yourself!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My Path To Becoming An Author (Part 2)


If you missed Part 1, check it out here: My Path To Becoming An Author (Part 1)

Do you know what's really, really daunting when you're trying to become a first-time author?  Looking at just one publisher website that says, "We receive more than 1,000 submissions every month."  One THOUSAND...CHILDREN book manuscripts...every MONTH...to just ONE publisher.  That means there are 1,000 people just like me who think they've written this great book and expect this publisher to like it over the other 999 this month alone.  Except some of these other 999 people may already be published authors which gives them a one-up.  Some of them may have insider connections that I don't have.  Some of them may have started their publisher search long ago and they know submission tricks I don't.  Some of them may be using an agent which is a huge bonus in this industry.  And many of them probably have a way better book on their hands than me.  Competition.  Competition. Competition.  It's not stopping me from moving forward, but it sure as hell is intimidating.

Through all those years that my manuscript sat collecting dust, I imagined one day finally sitting down and searching online for children's book publishers, sending them my simple pdf document and waiting for rejections and hopefully one acceptance.  Simple as that.  Everything seems simple when you don't know anything about it yet.  Maybe it used to be that simple.  It probably never was.  All I know is I was way uneducated on this process.  As I've begun the research stage I am learning so many things which are elongating the process, but also finally making decisions that I've been contemplating for years.

Two of the biggest reasons I hadn't taken a step forward with all of this since college was indecisiveness regarding these two matters:
1. Traditional Publishing vs Self Publishing
2. Ask one of my many creative friends to illustrate vs hire someone unknown from an illustration company

These two conflicts literally kept me from doing anything at all with my book over the past 13 years.  I was always scared of making the wrong decisions.  But I finally told myself that making no decision at all is worse than making the wrong one.  I'd rather screw this all up and learn from it than always wonder "what if."  So before I did anything else I had to research and debate those two dilemmas, because the answers determined my next actions.

Despite the "1000 submissions" statement on that publisher site, it's actually really easy to get a book published nowadays due to self-publishing options.  Originally I thought this was the route I would take because it would be quicker and easier.  But as I did my research I started thinking harder about what I wanted out of this.  Here's a quick snapshot of the differences:


Traditional Publishing
Self-Publishing
I get paid
I pay
Helpful advertising/marketing
Self-market
More credibility
Less credibility
Lots of work
Easier
Slow (as in years)
Fast (as in months)
Involves add’l writing (query, proposal, cover letter, etc)
No add’l writing
Publisher buys rights to book
I am the publisher
Little say on illustrations
Much say on illustrations
Distributes book for me
Self-sell
More exposure
Little exposure
Includes editing, formatting, art professionals
Find professionals myself; pay all those people out of pocket

There are pros and cons on both sides, but basically the fundamental differences are Time, Money and Control.  

After contemplating the two options I decided I'm not doing this just so my family and closest friends with kids buy my amateurly-done book off of Amazon.  I think my story is enjoyable, teaches a lesson and creates colorful imagery in your head even without illustrations.  I would love for young children and their parents whom I have never met to have the opportunity to read and buy and enjoy my book as a family.  Joe, Eva and I read books together every night and although I rarely notice the authors names on the covers, those men and women have created many happy memories on the couch, on the floor and in our beds.  I'd love to be that for hundreds, hopefully even thousands, of other families.
Considering the 3 fundamental differences, I don't mind if this takes a few years and additional steps if in the end I have a credible, professional-looking book with the prestige of a Publishing House inside the cover and help with distribution and marketing.  
I want to make money on it, not spend it.  I'd feel much more like a writer if someone paid me for my talent, than spending my money to make it happen.
And I don't mind giving up significant control considering I'm not a pro on every (any) aspect of making a book.  Professional illustrations, formatting and editing could only improve what I've started.
Should I choose to write more in the future I'll be the "submitter" with a one-up on others trying to do this their first time, because I can say I'm a published author by this publishing house.

So my first decision was made - I will exhaust all efforts trying to publish traditionally and only if that fails will I turn to self-publishing.  On to my next decision which quickly became a non-decision.  As I started researching about illustrations I learned that traditional publishers prefer getting picture book manuscripts without pictures.  Who woulda thought?!  Thank God for the world wide web!

If you send a publisher a manuscript with pictures, four things could happen:
1. They like neither the story or the art.  Both of us are rejected.
2. They like the art, but not the story.  They may hire my illustrator for other work, but me and my manuscript are rejected.
3. They like the story, but not the art.  I get accepted, but the publisher wants to use their own illustrator so I've wasted thousands of my own dollars on my illustrator.
4. They like both and both are accepted.  (Highly, highly unlikely)

So there's decision #2.  I won't even worry about illustrations unless I get accepted by a publisher or have to resort to self-publishing.

I've performed quite a few more steps but will leave those for further Parts to this blog series.  Thanks for following my path!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Screw You, Anxiety




At one point in my life this is not something I would have brought up on my own or openly talked about.  I found it embarrassing and was afraid of looking weak.  I think all people have a closeted issue they like to keep to themselves for the same reason - looking weak, being embarrassed, feeling alone, being judged.  Could be addiction, depression, OCD, ADD, PTSD, IBS, who knows!  Today I am admitting mine and it's self-diagnosed panic disorder.  Albeit I have a very minor case of it, but that's my (or one of my) "issues."

Looking back at my few incidents I can finally laugh at the unfortunate memories.  I'm not saying anxiety issues are funny because many people suffer from it to a debilitating degree.  I have a much less serious form of it and have been able to find the humor in my personal experiences.  So please don't read this as though I'm insensitive to people with anxiety or think it's funny.  If something happened to me again I wouldn't be able to find the humor in my new incident for quite some time.

There have been two times in my life where my nerves got the better of me.  The first time was in college and the second time was during my professional career.  Both times my body reacted the same internally, but they each had different external outcomes for the audiences that got to witness them.

Growing up I never had issues with anxiety.  I would get nervous to get up in front of people, but I always succeeded and did just fine.  I'm sure being in performance activities like show choir and color guard during high school helped me in the classroom when I had to give reports or presentations.  Which is why I was completely unprepared and blindsided for what happened my freshman year of college.  Of all classes for this to happen in it was my sociology class - the study of the origin, development, organization and functions of human society.  I think the only more ironic class this could have happened in was psychology.  The class was split up into groups to prepare group presentations on different topics.  My group planned accordingly, we all prepared our own portions of the presentation and were ready to present on time.  No reason for extra nerves and I wasn't even up there alone.  We all stood at the front of the class together and eventually it was my turn to approach the podium and present my part.  It was in powerpoint form on the computer in front of me, projected up on the screen.  I was doing just fine until all of a sudden I started feeling really fuzzy.  My body felt weak and my vision became very tunneled.  Darkness started closing in from both sides and I only saw light directly in front of me.  And then the worst part happened.  I started hallucinating.  (Yes, I know what you're thinking and no I was not on anything).  The little vision I had left, which was my computer screen right in front of me, went completely white.  The words and images just disappeared from the screen.  But then one tiny letter appeared in the distance and slowly floated towards my face, growing bigger the closer it got, and then popped like a bubble right in front of me.  Then another letter did the same thing.  Then another.  I felt completely outside of myself.  I tried to continue talking based on memory but eventually one of my group members said something like "Okay, let's move on to the next part."  Luckily there was a chair against the chalkboard that I could sit in.  Once I sat, sweat started pouring down my face as though I just ran a marathon in 100 degree heat.  I leaned forward, taking deep breaths, trying to get my heart rate under control, as well as my sweat glands.  I couldn't tell you how the rest of my group did.  Once the group was done I went back to my seat where the teacher had been sitting at the empty desk next to mine.  I asked him if I could leave because I wasn't feeling well and his very inconsiderate response was "This isn't meant to torture people" in a very rude way.  Not the response I was expecting from a sociology teacher.  When I reiterated I didn't know what was wrong with me and wanted to leave he said "whatever" but by that time the next group was up and starting and the last thing I wanted to do at that point was bring more attention to myself, so I just sunk in my seat and wondered what the hell just happened.  In that moment I didn't even consider anxiety because the experience was so new to me.  All I knew was that I was completely embarrassed and hated attending that class for the remainder of the semester.  I also lost all respect for that teacher.  Later on when I apologized to my group I told them what happened and how I tried to continue from memory, which is when they told me I actually had stopped talking and was just standing there.  This only added to my embarrassment.  So I guess me speaking was also a hallucination.  Every time I entered that class for the rest of the semester I felt all eyes were on me for being that weird girl who just stared at everyone blankly from behind the podium, and then perspired her body weight.  As I contemplated over time what that experience was, the last thing I wanted it to be was anxiety.  If it was anxiety that meant I lost control over myself, and I'm a bit of a control freak.  It meant I showed weakness to a group of people who are easily judgmental.  It meant it could happen again, which terrified me.  After it happened this one time I was and forever will be afraid of it happening again.  I began to fear presentations and getting in front of people way more than I ever had in the past.  I changed my way of signing up for classes, avoiding ones I knew would put me in this position again.  Required courses that forced this, such as Public Speaking, I took during summer school in hopes the classes would be smaller, or at least less formal.  It was a new kind of scared I had to contend with.  After my sophomore year I transferred schools (for unrelated reasons) and decided to stand up to my fear and push the boundaries I had set for myself.  So of all things, I got involved with a comedy group.  This was at a time that I was scared of speaking in public, I didn't think I was funny and I didn't think I was creative.  Best. Idea. Ever!  But that's for a whole other blog post.  This definitely helped with performance issues and I got through college without any more anxiety mishaps.

Once I graduated and began looking for my first job the fear set in again and I chose to not look for positions that would require speaking to large groups of people.  Small groups (meaning 5), fine.  Large groups (10+), bad.  About 4 or 5 years into the workforce I was spontaneously asked to explain a web reporting program to our largest client who was visiting from another state.  The client is a very well-known automotive brand who spent tens of millions with our company.  I got nervous, but no preparation was really needed as it wasn't so much a presentation as it was just showing how I used this reporting tool on a daily basis.  I had about an hour to at least get some organized thoughts together in my head.  The setting of the second incident was in the main board room.  There were about 20 people, a mixture of client visitors and internal coworkers.  Enough that the long conference table had every seat taken and more had to sit in chairs along the walls of the room.  When I walked in I saw a podium, a computer and a projector.  All the bad memories came rushing back, but I did my normal internal chill out talk to myself.  I'm pretty good at acting like I'm more fine than I am in those situations.  I began speaking and was doing fine.  I actually got through it, but remained up there to answer questions after my boss added a few comments to what I had shared.  And then the fuzzy feeling came.  I thought "oh shit, here it goes again."  Since I knew what the fuzzy feeling meant this time I tried to be proactive.  What I should have done was sit down.  Instead, I walked to the beverage table and got a coke thinking maybe sugar will help to suppress my inner jitters.  Clearly I wasn't thinking correctly.  I walked back to the podium, ever so carefully through my escalating tunnel vision trail, took one sip, set the coke down on the podium, and then...wait for it...I fainted.  This was not a glamorous fall.  I did not fall back on a bed of pillows with my knees clasped together and the back of my hand ever so slightly touching my forehead.  This was a jaw-dropping did she just die fall.  I was standing about 2 feet in front of a wall that was actually a bunch of built-in cabinets.  Unfortunately the cabinet directly behind me was open just a crack.  So as I fell backwards my head hit the cabinet which slammed shut and made everyone jump, not to mention bring all eyes in my direction.  And because the wall stopped my fall while still fairly upright, my knees buckled and my back slid down the cabinets to the floor until I was sitting on my butt with my knees up in front of me.  PRAISE JESUS I was wearing pants.  I had considered more feminine options that morning.  Now I was clearly unconscious during this, but based on how I was before I fainted and when I woke up quickly after, I imagine that is an accurate description.  Right as I hit the floor I began to come to, and two girls I worked with that were closest to me each grabbed an arm and pulled me up.  The second I was in a standing position I made a beeline for the door ignoring the awkward silence of the room.  I went directly to the bathroom which had a chair and I just sat there chanting "that did not just happen, that did not just happen."  Once again the sweat started pouring.  The two girls who pulled me up followed me in to make sure I was okay.  One of my unforgiving, incessant, workaholic, unhumorous clients came in to check on me, and trying to find humor in the situation I jokingly said "Do you have any more questions?"  She unjokingly said "Actually I do" and while standing in the bathroom proceeded to ask me like five more questions, and I quickly answered as I continued to dab the sweat off my face.  I didn't go back to the board room.  Throughout the rest of the day as people stopped by my cubicle to check on me (clients included) my face turned red knowing they either heard about it or were one of the lucky ones that got to witness it.

A few years later when I began searching for my next job I chose to face my fears again, just like in college, and the next company I worked for put me in front of much more than 20 people that I spoke to on a fairly consistent basis.  And over time I actually learned to enjoy it.

At the beginning I said I had self-diagnosed panic disorder.  This is because I've never seen a psychiatrist about it.  But after doing some minor research I found this from Anxiety and Depression Association of America which sounds just like my story: [Panic disorder is diagnosed in people who experience spontaneous seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks and are preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack.  Panic attacks occur unexpectedly, sometimes even during sleep.  About 6 million American adults experience panic disorder in a given year.  Typically developing in early adulthood, women are twice as likely as men to have P.D.]  While 6 million Americans may seem like a large number in general, it's really not when you put it in perspective.  That's like the population of Atlanta, which is only 2.7% of the entire U.S. population.  That kinda bummed me out because it made me feel more alone than I expected to be.  However with further research I realized I was only looking at my type of anxiety of panic disorder.  There are many types of anxiety, affecting 40 million adults 18+ in the U.S. which is 18% of the population.  While I hate it for those 40 million people, it shamefully makes me feel better about myself.  I always hear that public speaking is the #1 thing people are afraid of, even more so than death.  But most are able to get through it without embarrassing incidents.

Although many people take medicine for these issues, I have refrained, partially because I'm not to a debilitating level where it has lead to an unsatisfactory life.  More so because I'm in denial about it.  I don't like to have things wrong with me.  I can admit to having had panic attacks and I can openly write about having self-diagnosed panic disorder based on the ADAA description above, but I don't think of myself as a person with panic disorder.  Does that make sense?  Even though I've had these incidents, I still always try to overcome the situation when I'm put into it.  Sometimes I succeed and clearly I have failed a couple times.  And it's very possible the fuzzy feeling will return again when I don't expect it, and although on that day I'll be embarrassed and crying, I'll have another story to tell years after it happens having found humor in it.

Whenever I see a celebrity win one of those televised awards (like an Oscar) and they give this perfect, eloquent, calm speech, I am in awe.  If that were me I would get up there and blankly stare at everyone, wobble back and forth on my skinny heels, faint (with a dress on) and someone would be dragging me off stage like a mop leaving a slippery trail of sweat behind.  Here's hoping I never win an Oscar.