57. Overcoming Shyness

57. Overcoming Shyness

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Resolution

Overcoming Shyness

Worry and fear never rob tomorrow of its sorrow, they only sap today of its joy.
 ~Leo Buscaglia

I was a shy kid. To me, people were complex, intimidating, unpredictable, and unknown. I didn’t even like to answer the telephone for fear I’d have to talk to somebody I didn’t know. I enjoyed the solitude of exploring the golden California hills that were near my home. Winding along hills and streams was invigorating yet peaceful.

However, at school I had to spend all day in the company of others. My escape was reading. Reading was acceptable and it was solitary. Studying was another thing I could do quietly and by myself. I spent a lot of time studying and was rewarded with good grades. My one downfall was Spanish — I’d get all As on my written work and tests, but Ds and Fs on the spoken part. I simply could not get up in front of the class to speak those simple dialogues.

Eventually I went to college. I realized that some people were rather fun to hang out with. Yet my childhood shyness carried over and I found myself tongue-tied and embarrassed whenever I found myself in a conversation.

During my third year of college, I decided that I’d had enough of being shy. I found that I enjoyed being around people and I wanted to be able to converse freely like the other students around me. I resolved to change my outlook and behavior and overcome my shyness.

Along the way, I had learned a few words and phrases in several foreign languages — Spanish, German, and Russian. One day while on campus, I noticed an advertisement for positions on the local classical music radio station. I had grown up listening to classical music, and I loved it. I also realized that my language background enabled me to easily pronounce names such as Tchaikovsky, Albinoni, Chopin, Dvorak, and Rachmaninov.

In order to get a job at the radio station, applicants needed to submit an audition tape and be interviewed. My goal was merely to survive the interview and making the tape — going into a recording booth and reading advertisements and announcing symphonies and operas. I had absolutely no background in radio, and absolutely no hope of getting the job. The idea of talking to thousands of listeners in “radioland” terrified me. No, I didn’t really want the job, I just wanted to know that I could speak onto a tape and talk to an interviewer.

I survived the interview. The station manager was soft spoken and had a wonderful mellow voice that made me feel calm and comfortable. The recording booth was a bit intimidating with all the gauges, buttons and flashing lights, but it was intriguing as well. I was given brief descriptions of symphonies and a public service announcement to read, and a list of composers’ names to pronounce.

It wasn’t hard to read the descriptions and announcements, and the names, long familiar to me, were simple to speak. I left the recording session with a sense of relief that it was over, and a sense of accomplishment that I had actually done this strange and terrifying thing.

I was even more terrified to discover, about two weeks later, that I had actually landed the job. I was to work part time, at night and on weekends. I had to sit in the on-air studio, play recordings, and talk to thousands of unknown people throughout the state of Utah! I learned, too, that Saturday afternoons featured a listener request time. That meant I had to answer the phone and talk to people; noting, finding, and playing their requests.

It was a challenging job, but I grew to enjoy it immensely. I announced music to thousands of listeners in Salt Lake City and throughout Utah. In addition to announcing music and taking requests, I held contests, awarding free tickets “to the third caller.” I recorded and aired public service and promotional announcements. I began to feel comfortable talking to these people, these strangers, who I couldn’t even see.

It was a unique experience, being a DJ. After a few months, I realized that talking to people was not scary, but actually fun. I married and had five children. Speaking to people and navigating bureaucracy became simple. Eventually I found myself in another job — interviewing people and writing their stories in a weekly community newspaper.

Although I now spend many hours each week talking with people, I’m still basically a quiet person. Perhaps it is my soft voice and my quiet nature that helps draw people out as they respond to my questions as I interview them. My former shyness is an asset, as I can relate to people who feel discomfort when they talk to this local newspaper reporter. I still enjoy moments of solitude and the peace found in nature. But I’m also glad I resolved to make a change in my life that has opened many doors and opportunities that I never knew existed.

~Linda Butler

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