I woke up with a start this morning.
Bleary-eyed and rushing with adrenaline, I threw the covers away from my body and turned an ear towards the staircase. What was that I had heard? Half convinced that it was nothing more than an overactive imagination and half certain that someone who didn’t belong was shuffling around downstairs, I tiptoed over to the bedroom door.
With stilled breath and intent focus, I listened for the mysterious sound that had shattered my slumber. The only rewards I received for my sleuthing efforts were the ever-worsening drip-drip-drip of my shower and the strangely soothing sounds of a snoring cat. I had woken up for nothing.
It was 2:15 am.
“Dang it”, I hissed. There really wasn’t much else left to say. Going back to sleep was completely out of the question, and I knew it. As someone who has undoubtedly maintained atrocious sleeping habits since conception (I was born with bags under my eyes), I grabbed the tablet from the bedside table in preparation for another war with my tyrannical circadian rhythm. If I had to struggle to get back to sleep, I didn’t have to do it bored; I would turn to Youtube, my most faithful
Curse you, Youtube.
I ended up settling for a livestream that one of my favorite vloggers recently posted. It was a three hour long “Get Ready With Me” video—a rare gem from this particular girl. I wouldn’t sit through the whole thing, but I figured I should catch up with her latest antics for as long as I could stay awake.
Nestling my head deeper into my pillow, I attempted to ignore the reality of my sleeplessness by watching the Youtuber flat iron a wig she had recently attempted an autumn balayage on. In between listening to complaints about the flat iron not being hot enough and half-heartedly giggling at witty retorts directed at the troll who was spamming her comments, I wrestled with serious anxiety.
I was expecting a very important phone call at 7:00 am.
My heart had been gripped in a bear trap ever since I received the email requesting a meeting via phone. Phones… aren’t exactly “my thing” these days. Though I am a whiz when it comes to face to face communication, phones have admittedly become the bane of my existence. Having to speak on the phone is one of the few situations that reminds me of my social anxiety; it is a trigger, if you will. I also detest “talking at” the disembodied voices that chirp through menu speakers in Starbucks’ drive-thrus, but that’s a whole other story. Anyhow, this particular phone call had the potential to change the course of my entire life.
Terror had enveloped me for three days.
Wasn’t it bad enough that I had stayed up late prepping for the call? After spending well over two hours researching, scribbling down questions, recollecting details of my academic and professional background, and rehearsing answers to questions I would more than likely never be asked, I had fallen asleep some time around 11-11:30 pm.
What had happened to my plan? I was going to be super prepared—overly prepared even. I’d get to bed at a “decent” time, wake up at 6, and have plenty of opportunity to practice my elevator speech before receiving the call. She’d be impressed by my perky enthusiasm, and appreciate me waking up at the crack of dawn to accommodate the time difference between here and London. Everything was supposed to go swimmingly…
…but I woke up at 2 in the morning.
The hours began to tick by, feeding my anxiety by the plateful. There was no possible way that I would be able to sleep now; it was too late. The prospect of accidentally sleeping through the call frightened me more than the call itself, so I forced my eyes to remain open.
Running the flat iron through her hair for the fifth time, the vlogger warned the viewers about the excessive length of the stream; she hadn’t thought she’d actually post it to her channel because “no one would bother watching all three hours anyway”. Little did she know just how willing I was! Her slow-poke makeup routine (which actually took 2.5 hours to complete) was the only buffer between my dwindling sense of calm and the unbelievable amount of worry that was steadily mounting inside of me. What if I said something stupid and ruined everything? This call meant everything to me. It had to go well—it just had to.
And then it was 6 am.
My movements were stiff and robotic:
Get out of bed. Brush teeth. Wash face. Change clothes. Throw hair into bun. Check phone. Double check phone. Mull over notes. Review documents. Double check notes. Triple check notes. Verify the local time in London. Swallow profusely in an effort to calm a nauseated stomach. Deep breaths. Ignore the sensation of wanting to pass out. Pace the room. Pray.
And then it was 6:30 am.
The anxiety had become overwhelming:
Resist increasing urge to be sick on self. Repeatedly ask self, “Is it hot in here, or is it just me?” Realize no one is going to answer. Acknowledge imminent freak out. Yawn loudly and pretend you aren’t tired—or yawning. Pray again. Throw cat out of the room to prevent untimely howling. Compulsively fix shirt and smooth hair as though people can see through the phone. Pray a third time—this time apologizing for being so annoying. Seriously question your competency and intelligence. Force yourself to say that you are capable of anything you put your mind to—even if you don’t feel that you are.
You are amazing. Don’t second guess anything. Don’t sell your talents short. Just be yourself.
The phone rang thirty seconds past 7. After a brief and awkward pause, the woman on the other end asked for me by name; her accent was like molasses. She didn’t sound as cheery as I had hoped, but I tried not to make much of it. Slightly embarrassed, but determined to hide the shake in my own voice, I confirmed that she was speaking to the correct person. After a brief introduction, the caller jumped right into her first question.
“So I understand you have a background in difpo quti wooti?”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. If you don’t mind, could you just repeat yourself once more? The reception on my end seems to be a bit garbled, so I didn’t quite catch that last bit.”
“Certainly, no problem. I understand you have a background in jefas divas doksadock?”
Oh. My. Gosh. What is she saying?
“Oh dear, I’m afraid I still couldn’t catch that. The phone keeps cutting off right at the end there. Sometimes my reception isn’t very good here. I apologize, but could you just say that once more please?”
“Ab—so—lutely. I see that you have… a background in….”
“Ohjays jilly duffydoop…”
Oh no. I can’t believe this is happening right now.
“Is that correct?”
“I hate to say this, but I truly can’t understand that last bit. I am so sorry. You see, I recently changed cellphone service providers and—”
“That’s fine! Would it be easier if we simply emailed?”
“…Yes, I’m thinking so.”
It was right around this time that I went completely deaf. The caller’s voice was suddenly clear as crystal, yet I felt a million light-years away. I hung up the phone with my heart in the pit of my stomach. The call couldn’t have lasted more than three minutes. What had just occurred? In one fell swoop (and with one awful cellphone connection), the phone call had been ruined. Everything was surely ruined.
While I was low-key happy to be off the phone and off the hook (pun completely intended), I was deeply disappointed that my preparation had all gone to waste. And even though the caller quickly followed up with an email just as she had promised, I wrote her back feeling as though I had been punked by the universe. Sure, I am much more comfortable articulating myself via written word, and I wrote one heck of a response back, but… it wasn’t supposed to happen that way.
I’d been told we’d have a phone call.
I had prepared for a phone call.
I had worried for three days over a phone call.
I’d lost sleep over a phone call.
I’d nearly made myself physically ill because of a phone call.
And then I realized that I’d ignorantly allowed myself to believe that my worth and my future rested in the outcome of a phone call.
I wanted to share my experience with you guys today in order to encourage anyone who has difficulty worrying about the opinions of others. Whether it is a one-off or a chronic issue, we all would do well to remember that our value should not and does not come from the judgements of others.
Despite knowing how pointless it is to worry about things, it can be easy for us to get caught up in a whirlwind of anxiety and doubt. There are so many things to potentially fret about in this life—relationships, bills, jobs, school, health issues—the list genuinely goes on and on. I mean, even my cats worry about where their laser pointer went or who ate out of their food bowl when they weren’t looking. The opportunity to worry about something or another is everywhere, so we need to be careful not to always take the bait.
There used to be a time when I worried so much that I could have easily become concerned about the sky being blue. I mean, is it really sky blue or is it actually more of a cornflower? Inquiring, but mostly anxious minds, want to know! These days, I am usually so mellow I may as well be sleepwalking. Perhaps this is why I was so surprised by the nervousness I felt regarding this phone call. I’d gotten so wrapped up worrying over how this woman was going to perceive me or compare me to others that I allowed it to throw me off balance.
I mean, yes, the phone call is usually a critical part of the endeavor I’m pursuing (I will share actual details in the future if all goes well). Under normal circumstances, this woman would be a gatekeeper, of sorts. Without her approval, things could go quite awry, so I think 99.9% of people who talk to her probably wish to impress her just as I did. However, this woman is not the judge of me. Only God can judge me. That is the only opinion I should ever care about, but yet, I allowed myself to completely lose sight of that.
In this day and age it can be so difficult to maintain a healthy view of ourselves. I like to call it a “Comparison Culture” because so much of what takes place in modern society (especially on social media) is based on showing off your life, your possessions, your hobbies, etc. While it can be motivating and enlightening to be able to take a sneak peek into the lives of others, it is no secret that doing so can have a negative impact on people’s self esteem and sense of worth. Our job is not to look at Suzy and Bobby over there on IG and compare notes. We need to be concerned with what we personally have to offer, and make it our number one priority to never compare it and never forget it.
So if you struggle with representing yourself and being confident in the face of potential (or actual) judgement, please try to remember that no man has the right to judge you. Whether you believe in God, creation, the trees, a paper box or none of the above, you are an individual who has your own set of gifts, talents and contributions to make in life. If you feel called to do something good in this world, try not to worry over what others think of you. They aren’t you and you aren’t them. Your job in this life is to be the best you. It is impossible to please everyone, and even if you did “everything” right, there’d still be that one jerk in the back criticizing you for something.
The only thing worth worrying about in this life is whether or not you are doing your best to be a blessing to this world. Other than that, worrying is a complete and utter waste of time. I had to be reminded the hard way today, but it is not a lesson I shall soon forget. Hopefully, you won’t either.
Here’s to still slaying my dreams without that phone call.
© C. M. 2018 All Rights Reserved
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