Coming off a couple of very busy weeks, I can’t help but to think about how our lives, and outlook on life, can reshape from year to year. Shoot, how it can do that from day to day, right? I thought I was pretty happy with what I had going for the last several years, but suddenly, as a whole new challenge presents itself, I’m filled with an excitement I haven’t known in a long time, that I almost forgot existed. It’s the kind of excitement that won’t let me sleep at night (in a good way!), reminiscent of what many of us experience when we are younger with sights set on our dreams.
Recording a video, recently, to put out to the world, which not only revisits what was once a nightmare in my life, but re-frames it into a fantastic opportunity to enlighten and, perhaps, even help others, was exhilarating. The next day it was off to do something similar at WTAM radio in Cleveland, for hundreds of thousands of listeners, when you consider the station also streams live on iheart.com. It was almost surreal, especially as I’m presented as an expert, or authority, on online shaming and social media image protection and abuse. All that comes after—gasp—getting published in MS. Magazine, with an article that ties into my mission.
Sitting back to take a breath and inventory, it hits me: this “mission” I’m taking on, which will include a book and speaking career, hopefully, is really coming to fruition! Naturally, that brings on a range of emotions and questions, including, “can I really do this?”
Who doesn’t encounter that question many times in their life? And, how unnerving it can be when how we allow ourselves to answer it or, which path we allow ourselves to choose, can make or break our new dreams. Self-doubt can be so destructive. When it casts a dark shadow over any bright plan I’ve set my sights on, which it has done often in my life, I always go back to my 7th grade biology class, of all places.
First day of class, I was terrified. I still get nervous just thinking about it. Most intimidating–Mr. Knudsen. His reputation was that he was no non-sense, there would be no slacking and no easy way out. There would be, however, lots of homework, pop quizzes and major projects. Right off the bat, he laid down the law, standing tall in front of our geeky, pubescent, confused group with a handsome but, stern face, perfectly coiffed, dark hair and mustache, wearing his signature sports coat, looking down over his glasses at us and setting down the ground rules in a most commanding manner.
Until then, I’d never had a teacher like him before. I never saw my classmates responding with such “gulp in the throat” trepidation, either. This was serious. This was education. Even as he displayed hints of a sense of humor, Mr. Knudsen gave us a choice of paths to take, either succeed or fail, intimating failing would be very unpleasant.
As much as I can recall the self-doubt, the downright fear, I also recall the absolutely most incredible reward I’d ever known, a self-discovery I cherish to this day. School, actually “accomplishment” altogether, never meant a whole lot to me until his class. Before that, I got through with decent grades, putting in an average effort. That class was the first time I remember truly challenging myself, being truly curious what I was capable of, truly wanting to succeed and put every bit of myself into it. Mr. K. demanded it, but eventually it became clear his sternness was a manifestation of just how much he really cared and wanted all of us to succeed put up against a most demanding syllabus.
I nailed it!
Hefty biology homework was my top priority as soon as I got off the bus after school. My choice.
Class presentation projects, I worked hours on and spilled many tears over, including a research project on seals, in which, I drove my mom crazy as she helped me make a huge papier Mache seal, insisting it had to be perfect! My choice.
Then, those frequent pop quizzes, which to my amazement, I “aced” just about every time! All, part of the path I chose for that class.
“Who is this person?” I asked myself, about myself, week after week as I excelled far beyond what I had any idea I could. Mr. Knudsen noticed me, started to expect the best out of me, and suddenly, so did I. Biology class, the class I most dreaded that year, became the class I most looked forward to day after day.
I left that class with a better understanding of, and respect for, Mr. K. and biology, of course! Most importantly though, I left with a newfound respect for myself and understanding of what I can do, when a choose the right path.
That confidence set me free to aim high. When I decided I wanted to go into the very competitive, and grueling television news industry, I knew if I put into it what I put into that biology class, I could do it.
I did it! TV is the path I was determined to journey down, again and again, job after job, city after city, one personal sacrifice after another.
I expected, no matter what, that’s what the rest of my life was going to be, until, that is, I was blindsided by the realization the satisfaction is dwindling. I can no longer quite tell if I am getting an “A.” I no longer recognize the landscape as the business changes, and as my own priorities change. I believe I’ll always have an affinity for broadcast journalism, for telling people’s precious stories and for the responsibility of informing viewers what’s going on in the world around them. I’m not ready to say I’m calling it quits in TV news, but I am so excited to navigate a fresh, new path, as well.
This time though, it’s not as much about what I want out of life. It’s about using what I now have to give back, educate and inspire—kind of like what Mr. Knudsen did, hopefully.
Goes to show the lifelong impact of conquering self-doubt just once, achieving that one defining success, getting that one “A” you never knew you could. When it comes time to explore unfamiliar territory, there’s nothing like having a frame of reference to fall back on when a new path shows up in front of you, no matter how mysterious, risky or rugged it may appear. It’s all about making it count.