"Our real journey in life is interior.
My mom was a conversationalist. As a kid, I remember being with her on shopping trips and waiting impatiently for what seemed like hours as she stopped and chatted with one person after another. The conversation rarely turned to me but I was tongue-tie when it did.
You would think that growing up in a large Irish-American family, I would have had the "gift of gab," but no, I was often stricken mute in social situations. This was especially acute when I encountered a boy crush. My awkward reaction was to blush, lower my eyes and walk past him.
Then I entered seventh grade and was told that, before the year ended, we would each be required to do three presentations, an oral book report, a pantomime and (gasp!) a dramatization in front of the entire class! I feared I might never pass seventh grade.
Shaking in my boots, I survived the first two assignments but the last one really required me to get out of my comfort zone. I stressed and felt nauseous but I was a striver for good grades. I had no option but to go for it if I wanted that "A."
For some reason, I wrote a funny skit about an old-time telephone operator with a stereotypical Brooklyn accent — probably the furthest character from my quiet bookish persona. My plan was to not look at the other kids and get lost in the character. It worked! The kids laughed and not in a mocking way. My teacher was so delighted that she insisted I repeat my performance for a visitor a few days later. To my own amazement, I agreed. I was still shy but I had overcome stage fright.
In later years as a teacher, I not only spoke in front of a classroom most days, I also presented at many conferences, including Macworld in Boston, and I presented on community television a number of times. Who would have thought that shy, nerdy girl could do it? For this, I credit my seventh grade teacher, who forced me to confront my fears and get over them, at least in public forums. This was one of the most significant inner journeys of my life.