When you’re a timid introvert, a perk of being a reporter is that you’re never the subject of the story.
Fresh out of college, I worked as a reporter for a small town weekly paper. That experience helped me for years. Although I’m bad at small talk, I had learned to go into “interview mode.” I would spring a few juicy questions about what made someone tick, imagining which quote could be offset in bigger type. Most people love to talk about themselves, and when I was an interviewer, I never had to be the center of attention.
Over the last few months, though, people encouraged me to reach out to the media about completing my list of 101 things in 1001 days. One woman told me how I inspired her to go back to college; another said she went to the movies by herself for the first time; still another decided to enter a horse show, something she had wanted to do for years. I still held back from sharing my story more publicly. It was one thing to write on my blog, my tiny little corner of the Internet where I am all-powerful, and quite another thing to hand over control to someone else.
A few weeks ago, my friend Linda texted me that she saw a woman on Good Morning America talk about her bucket list, but that my list was more impressive. I looked up the segment, and while the woman impressed me plenty, Linda had started something. I half-heartedly sent a press release to my local paper. Within a few hours, a reporter set up an interview. In a moment of grandeur, I reached out to Oprah too.
During my interview, I sat on what felt like the wrong side of the table and chose my words carefully, knowing that any phrase I happened to babble could make me look bad.
The interviewer, Michael Torelli of The Cheshire Herald, had done his homework, clicking through my blog to find the most interesting tasks. He and I laughed over my scary trapeze class, my Dance Central ineptitude, and my suburban confusion about how exactly to milk a cow. He confessed a fear of heights himself, and we commiserated over mind-numbing moments trying to climb a simple ladder. I caught myself enjoying the attention.
I then had over a week to stew about the article. “What’s the big deal?” I asked myself, but I woke up in the middle of the night worrying. What if people misunderstood an offhand comment I made about not liking fasting for Ramadan? What if people thought I was obnoxious for bragging?
The irony wasn’t lost on me that I felt too timid to promote that I am no longer too timid or that I had to go out of my comfort zone to promote that I went out of my comfort zone.
On its publication day, I stopped into a convenience store and saw myself in full color on the bottom of the front page. My chest tightened in fear. I tore through the article, searching for anything that would embarrass me, but everything was positive.
Over the next few days, friends and family reached out to congratulate me. At one gathering, people surrounded me and poured praise over me like warm honey. I found it unnerving to be the center of attention, but this timid introvert found it exciting too.
Maybe putting myself out there isn’t so bad? If I hear from Oprah, I’ll let you know.