Saying Yes: Overcoming Fears and Accepting New Possibilities

Image from Unsplash/Joshua Earle

While preparing for my Ignite talk this week, which is about the last talk I gave 2 ½ years ago, I came upon this writing from two years ago that reflects on the original talk. It feels like a time capsule. My current talk is about the failure, and potential renewal of this relationship, and how my actions didn’t match my words on commitment and the idea of going all in. And how in the end, my fears won out and I didn’t fully commit. Reading this piece reminds me how far I’ve come, and truthfully it makes me laugh. It feels a bit like sharing my diary, but here it goes. Hoping you laugh too.

Ignite: Sparking a Passion and Overcoming Fears

When I first attended Boulder Ignite, years ago, my reaction was awe- I couldn’t comprehend how these regular people transformed a simple topic into an interesting 5-minute presentation. Each presentation was allowed 20 slides that auto advance every 15 seconds. Topics ranged from “How to Cook With Cast Iron” to “Calling in Sick on a Powder Day.”

Last spring when I opened a generic mass email from Ignite looking for speakers an idea popped into my head for a talk and I submitted it. When I found out that my talk was accepted and I was going to be a presenter, fear crept in. I have close to no public speaking experience. I was going to have to talk in front of a sold out Boulder Theater crowd- 850 people.

I set to work on my talk.

Last summer, we photographed a friend’s wedding in California. Days later they traveled to Boulder for the Hanuman Yoga Festival as their honeymoon. They are adventure racers, acro yogis, and slackliners, and accustomed to challenge, so when we sprung the idea on them to literally stick together, they agreed. Their challenge was to physically maintain contact for the entire festival as a metaphor for sticking together in their relationship, and yes, this did include bathroom breaks. They were not allowed to stop touching. They liked the idea for their honeymoon- they are adventure racers, meaning they enjoy suffering. In total, they lasted for 56 hours, traveling all the way back to their home in Bend, Oregon still attached (view the Global Glue film about their amazing experience!).

Sticking together- Jason & Chelsey attempt true commitment on their honeymoon.
Sticking together- Jason & Chelsey attempt true commitment on their honeymoon.

Meanwhile, another couple we had recently interviewed had been married for 56 years. Their life was also filled with adventure and travel. They met in Austria in the 40’s, and their first date was a Vespa scooter trip from Austria to Egypt.  Even though I was looking at two very different relationships, newlyweds compared to a 56-year couple, they shared many similarities. My idea was to compare Jason and Chelsey’s 56 hour newlywed-physical-touching-experiment to George and Marion’s 56-year marriage. Four themes emerged: shared passion; commitment to going deeper; community support and choice. The commitment to going deeper was a philosophy that Jason and Chelsey taught me, one that they used in adventure racing, “A way out is not an option, and in times of discomfort instead of looking for a way out look for a way in.” I liked the idea of applying this to relationship, especially in Boulder where athletes likely relate to the idea on a physical level, but perhaps not as it applies to relationship.

A face in the crowd

The night of my talk I had a date. It was someone who I had recently developed a friendship with, but we were beginning to explore whether there was more than friendship. He held my hand as I nervously awaited my turn to speak- 2nd to last. I was fidgety and was allowing fantasies of tripping or forgetting what I was talking about to enter my brain. Then I was on stage.

I couldn’t see the theater and simply went into autopilot and relied on practice, but I felt his presence and support, and in the midst of it I realized that my doing the talk mirrored what the talk was about. I chose to face my fear of speaking. I went deeper by being vulnerable to do the talk in the first place. I accepted community support and received invaluable feedback from friends. In the midst of it, I realized my community surrounded me, that the people in the theater had my back and even if I tripped and fell and made a fool of myself, I would be in a safe place to do so.

The act of doing the talk changed something in me, and allowed me to show up to my life with a bit more depth and commitment than I had before.

Less than a week after my talk, I had to travel to New Orleans for a work trip. I mentioned this to the person I was starting a relationship with, and he booked a ticket to join me. We had not spent a single night together yet, and suddenly we would be sharing an apartment for several days with no escape. I thought back to my talk, to the idea of going deeper and committing, and I said yes.

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