Today as I was working, I was listening to Pandora. I’ve been hesitant to do so because I had all the music I love already in my collection, but 1) I figured it’d be a good way to find some new music, and 2) when I got my new laptop, I lost all the music I had changed over from cds, and I seem to be missing a huge portion of my cd collection, sadly (all my Broadway music; so sad). Anyway, I’ve been listening to a Broadway station and remembering just how much I love Broadway music (and how much I love belting it out), when this wonderful song came on from Once Upon a Mattress:

I’ve always been SHY
I confess that I’m SHY
Can’t you guess that this confident air
Is a mask that I wear ’cause I’m shy
And you can be sureĀ 
Way down deep I’m demure
Though some people I know may deny it
At bottom I’m quiet and pure
I’m aware that it’s wrong to be meek as I am
My chances may pass me by
I pretend to be strong, but as weak as I am
All I can do is try
God knows I try
Though I’m frightened and shy
And despite the impression I give
I confess that I’m living a lie
Because I’m actually terribly timid
And horribly shy

Now this song suits me to a T (okay, except the looking for a man part). People who know me – many who know me quite well, in fact – think I am outgoing and social, but the truth is that I am absolutely terrified to talk to people. It’s all an act. I am a huge introvert. Yes, I met my husband doing theater. Yes, I can memorize lines, stand in front of people, deliver a speech or sing a song – but I get nervous picking up the phone when I don’t know *exactly* why the person on the other end is calling. I stress about parties and social events, rehearse what I need to say to the doctor or dentist (only in my head), and generally feel unsettled around other people. I am comfortable in my own little world, in my home, by myself, reading a book, writing or making something. It has taken me YEARS to work myself up to coming out of my shell to become comfortable enough with who I am (socially awkward) to just be myself around people and to talk first, introduce myself, or fill uncomfortable silence.

I started singing in choir when I was in 3rd grade. Getting on stage terrified me – but it was that or violin, and I liked singing much more. WHen I got to Jr High, I realized I loved singing, and didn’t want to stop, so I continued with choir, still having near panic attacks before each concert. By then I realized it was a fear, and decided I needed to overcome it. I have no idea what made me decide that, but when I decide something is a challenge, I am generally too stubborn (stupid?) to back down, so I just kept going. I continued choir in high school, and if you were a good choir student (and I was a good student for everything else, so why wouldn’t I do well in choir?), you’d do solos; so I tried out for solos. And I sang them – shaking each time. The next step were musicals – three in high school, though just in the chorus. On to college, where I did plays and took leads, singing complete songs alone and memorizing pages of dialogue. (This is when I met my husband.) People can’t understand why I felt comfortable acting, but the truth is that acting is marvelous! It’s the only time in life that everything is scripted; for 2 hours you know exactly what you are supposed to say and – even better – what the person you are speaking to is going to respond. Once you gain confidence in your role, and the role of your costars, you can play to the audience, engage them, and draw them in. I took those lessons with me when presenting papers at conferences for my English classes, and was much less nervous than expected.

Yet despite all this training, I still almost never feel 100% at ease. And even when I do, my body gives me away. I have a central nervous tremor, which causes my hands to shake. So even if I do feel completely at ease, I can give the impression of being completely panicked. I think this is a gift – to help establish my real character, which is that of an introvert.

As I’ve become more active in my community and outspoken in church and in other social situations, I feel like a different person. I didn’t change who I was. I simply became comfortable with ME. I’ve realized that God made me who I am, and that specific person – awkward, nervous, introverted, but also someone who loves theater, music and sharing stories – that person that I am is specifically designed like no other. I am designed to be myself, to be the best me that I can be, and when I go out to do what God has called me to do – which is to share the love of Christ and the Gospel – then there is no reason to hide or change who I am. I need to introduce myself first and share stories about me because I am terribly timid, horribly shy – and there are others out there just like me who need to hear the good news from someone like me.

Visiting UCLA with the Chinese Students

Janss StepsOne of the most fun things I’ve gotten to do with the students this year is take a trip to UCLA. They are required to visit a bunch of different kinds of places for their program – Police, Fire Dept, volunteer, medical, and schools, for example. They were headed to UCLA, but couldn’t get a tour, so they were going to walk around and do a self-guided tour – only no one had really been there before! Since UCLA is the school I graduated from, I was delighted to offer to go and walk around with them.
After a bunch of traffic, we finally made it. We got out of the car, gathered at the Bruin Bear, where I told them to meet if they got lost (but no one was getting lost, right? RIGHT?) and then made a quick run to the bathroom. From there we sat down and I gave them a brief intro of UCLA – I did a bunch of research so I had all my facts and figures down and could actually give them an informative tour. However, straight information is no fun. What *IS* fun is telling people the urban legands of UCLA that incoming freshman are told.
Statue GardenSo, I told the students that I was going to tell them a lot of things about UCLA and that some of the stories would be true and some would be lies – and that they needed to figure out which were which. If they asked me, I’d tell them. (I ended up discussing it with my students the next day, so hopefully they passed the info on the the other students.)
With that warning, we headed off for a 2 hour tour of campus with the fascinating details of psych experiments, WWII bomb shelters, pools on roofs, helicopters moving buildings, and bodies buried under staircases. We had a great time – even if there was a ton of walking. The students seemed to enjoy themselves and really appreciate the beauty of the campus. I got to take my daughter, who was very well behaved (and thusly rewarded with a visit to the candy store at the end of the tour). It was a fun day.
Bruin Bear