Monday, February 28, 2005

Professional Trauma

This past weekend I received a potential blow to my self-esteem. Since I'm talking about my professional self-esteem, it's okay for me to discuss it here.

Okay, here's the background. I have been asked to speak at an American Association of University Women luncheon. The AAUW is an association of female college graduates that works to promote education for women. (I mention this because until I went to its website I had only the vaguest idea what this organization was about.) Anyway, many local AAUWs have Book and Author Luncheons. They invite a few authors to speak, sell tickets, and the money raised supports their activities-- mainly, I believe, scholarship funds.

Well, on Saturday, I received a flyer for this event, which included pictures of the three authors and descriptions of a book for each of us. So far, so good. I noticed that one of the authors was a young, good-looking fellow, but I didn't think a whole lot about it because I had things to do that day.

Well, Saturday night I'm channel surfing and I stumble onto CSPAN where I see a guy on some kind of panel. Imagine my surprise when I notice that he has a name very similar to that of the young, good-looking fellow who is speaking with me at this luncheon in April. He looks a lot like him, too. So I run and get the flyer and sure enough, I was right. The name is the same.

I look him up on the Internet. His name is Ian Smith. He's written a novel called The Blackbird Papers, which is why he's going to be at the luncheon. But here's the kicker:

He was a medical correspondent for NBC News!!!!

Why is this a threat to my professional self-esteem? The guy is accustomed to speaking on camera. (My one experience on camera was with a local access program. I looked like garbage--though thin--and had this intense, creepy way of speaking.) I repeat, the guy is accustomed to speaking on camera. I'm guessing we will not be hearing any "Ah...ah...ah..." from him nor any "Now where was I going with this?" Will Mr. Smith...wait, excuse me! He's a doctor! And the M.D. kind, too. Will Dr. Smith have to pause to look for his place in his notes?

Will he even need notes?

Oh, gasp.

Well, fortunately, last Wednesday night I attended my second black belt class at the dojang where I train. (This is personal but relates to my professional life because everything is connected, see?) Anyway, there was a ten to fifteen minute kicking exercise that was so brutal I nearly broke down in tears. Fortunately, self-contral is one of the basic tenants of taekwondo, and I am much better at self-control than I am at holding body targets while other black belts are kicking me black and blue. That was the part of the exercise that was bothering me.

This whole miserable black belt class experience was like something out of a sports movie. The kind of sports movie where someone has been training for years and is feeling humiliated because she is still so bad at what she does. In those movies the humiliated person has some kind of maturing experience and gets all spunky and tough. I've had the maturing experience part. It remains to be seen how spunky and tough I'll become.

Anyway, it just seems to me that my concerns about speaking at the same luncheon with Dr. Ian Smith are similar to my concerns about going to the black belt class. I don't want to be humiliated by someone who can perform better than I can. The solution, to both the black belt thing and the speaking engagement, is to train harder.

Otherwise Dr. Ian Smith is going to kick my butt and hand it back to me just like the other black belts did at the dojang last week.

The other speaker at this luncheon will be Kathleen O'Connor, author of No Accident. Wouldn't it be a hoot if I'm all worried about Ian Smith but Kathleen ends up grinding both of us into the ground?

Yeah, that would be really funny.

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