Christine is a graduate of Loyola University in Maryland (Go Hounds!) with a Communications degree in Journalism and Writing. She’s currently the proofreader and copy chief at an advertising agency, where she flexes her big, bad grammar muscles. On her down time, Christine can be found perfecting her pizza recipe, exploring the outdoors, and Goggling images of baby animals.
Public Speaking 101. As my mouse hovered over the “Register Now” button, every inch of my body protested—palms pouring, sandpaper throat, a sudden onset of Restless Leg Syndrome, and that “zero gravity roller coaster stomach” I’d grown way too familiar with.
Aside from being buried alive in a coffin full of boa constrictors, public speaking was my worst fear. I could get through group presentations and short oral reports with crimson cheeks and the occasional mind blank, but this class felt like a whole different animal.
“They’ll laugh at you,” my mind snickered. “They’ll laugh at you behind your back and the teacher FILMS you and you have to WATCH YOURSELF back in front of EVERYONE the next day and you’ll be embarrassed TO DEATH. DEATH!” And that was that. I scrolled through the less life-threatening classes in the course catalog and quickly selected on “Literary Journalism.” Safe. Easy. Livable.
And for 4 years, this scene played on repeat. When registration came around I’d tell myself this was the semester I was going to enroll, despite my extreme urge to vomit. I’d mention my terror and friends would offer bird courses to select instead. Ones that were familiar and breezy, yet definitely less rewarding. And I took the easy road, again and again.
So there I was. A Broadcast Journalism wannabe who dreamed of becoming a globe-trotting reporter and I couldn’t even stand up in front of a 16 hungover college kids in a dim basement classroom without an airsick bag and a stretcher handy.
The Sparknoted version of this saga is that to graduate with a Broadcast Journalism degree from my university, Public Speaking was basically requirement #1. And since I never mustered up the guts to enroll, I was forced to change my major (Magazine Journalism, it turns out, struck less of that “roller coaster stomach” in me) and form new career dreams. Obviously, public speaking was a personal weakness that needed to be overcome. But instead of striving to improve, I cowered.
But this story isn’t about me; it’s about you.
We all know that college is the time to “challenge yourself”, but often that challenge becomes more about who can build the highest tower of empty Natty Light cans and less about who can build the strongest skillset for their future. My advice to you is to not get comfortable—and I’m not talking about not wearing PJ pants to class. I’m saying sign up for the courses that scare you. Raise your hand. Go to office hours. Take the extra credit. Do your readings. Push yourself. Your 4 years in college might be your last chance to take inconsequential risks. Maybe you’ll crash, but at least you can’t say you never stepped in the driver’s seat.
Everyone has those areas that need improvement and, if we’re lucky, we are given the chance to work on them. Don’t sacrifice your future for comfort. I encourage you to make the decision that scares you, because it might be even scarier not to.