“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.”
I saw the volunteer recruitment online and I mulled over it for a time. I’m a fairly shy person and would need to have a lot of energy stored in my social battery before I begin to work the crowds. As an avid reader and a sometimes writer I felt that I couldn’t let the opportunity to rub elbows with the literati pass me by. So with one hand on the mouse and one hand over my eyes I submitted my sign up form.
There was an orientation I dragged myself to. I was never good at introducing myself. I was early as I could scout the venue and choose the seat that would let me blend into the background. Everyone was so chatty and confident, I wanted to burrow myself in my sweater. I tried to look friendly (my resting face does not encourage conversations) and crack jokes but it was so painfully awkward that I think they laughed out of pity. After that ordeal I wondered whether I could pull off a day of volunteering with strangers.
The day arrived, one of my favourite authors from university was giving a talk about his books. The session started before my own volunteering session so I made my way to the auditorium. When I arrived there were a couple of people who were already there, I once again sat at the fringes somewhere near the exit so I could be inconspicuous. A few moments later the familiar face stepped into the room accompanied by his assistant. Everyone’s head turned and although we all knew who he was, it was only a silent acknowledgment. I was part incredulous and part nervous since he was just two rows in front of me. I took out his book from my bag and gripped it with both hands. I looked at one of my prized possessions and looked back at him. His gaze was wandering around the room and then his met mine. He smiled at me. For some reason I thought it was a sign. I stood up and walked over. I introduced myself and he shook my hand. He even introduced me to his assistant. I told him that I loved his stories and asked him if it was OK if he signed my book. He graciously said yes and by this time I was on autopilot. My hand rummaged through my bag for a pen and passed it to him. I don’t really recall much of the conversation we had except that he was telling me of his flight and asked me about my family. It was all so surreal. That a legend will be so accommodating to me was just amazing. His journalist friend came over and he asked me a few questions as well. Only when one of the organisers came and ushered him to the podium did I realise that I spent a few minutes conversing with him. Needless to say I went into my own session with a newfound confidence. And all of that just because I dared to approach my literary idol.
Any experience that enlarges our capacity requires a risk. We are made to take risks.
It might shake up our preconceived notions, our personality and carefully laid plans but to risk is to discover the stuff that we are made of. To not risk is to keep our true selves hidden to our own self.
I’d rather risk if only a little bit than to never risk at all. Looking back in my life, the defining moments are those where I took a step towards the unknown. Acting in a stage play, joining writing or public speaking contests and confessing my feelings to the one I like are all different ways where I challenged myself to go beyond the ordinary. At first it was scary and uncomfortable. More often than not I questioned my life choices (ha!) but it did help me grow into the person that I am. I believe that it gave me a developed sense of self-awareness.
But it’s so easy to “maintain the standard”, or worse to “live down” to a set of expectations because it’s safe and it’s comforting. Although I need to be stable I don’t need to remain stagnant. It doesn’t need to be a leap of faith it can just be a small step in the extraordinary direction. Just because I dare.