Greater Than the Fear of Death

I hadn’t responded to a WordPress prompt in a while, so I found this one:

Are you comfortable in front of people, or does the idea of public speaking make you want to hide in the bathroom? Why?

Supposedly public speaking is more greatly feared than death. I vaguely remember reading about the reason for that: something to do with the fight-or-flight decision and some kind of primordial instinct that’s still down there in the human subconscious mind.

Back in high school and college, when I had to make a speech in front of the class, three things helped me allay the awful fear of death public speaking:

  1. Writing out the entire speech on paper, whether it was required or not. No notecards with “talking points.” The whole friggin’ speech, word for word, even notes like “pause here” and random stuff I’d write on the paper to make me smile because I forget to smile while talking in public. I would make a terrible politician; I’d have to rely way too much on the teleprompter. Plus, I make a lot more sense in writing than in speaking. If I had to speak extemporaneously, I’d be all, like, um, eh, er, what? So if I write the speech out, I am more confident in what I’m saying.
  2. Being one of the first people in the class to make the speech, so I could get it over with. Being the last person in class to make a speech is awful; you have to squirm through everyone else’s speech, anticipating all the things that could go wrong with yours. And it’s even worse when the guy before you takes up all the time in the class period, so you have to wait a whole ‘nother day before you get to make your speech.
  3. Saying the speech out loud beforehand, so I wouldn’t trip over any unpronounceable words (you know how there are some words that you can pronounce in your head, but when you try to say them out loud, they don’t come out right?). They always tell you to read your writing out loud as a method of editing, and it really does work. You can catch all kinds of flaws, from odd-sounding sentences, to unintended double meanings, to accidental alliteration that comes off sounding comical.

Anyway, I don’t think I answered the prompt question. Why does public speaking freak me out? Because I don’t do it often enough. My job involves sitting in front of a computer screen and editing science-related documents. The closest I come to public speaking at work is when I get a phone call, which is not that often. I also teach Sunday school, which is kind of like public speaking, but it’s a lot less intimidating speaking in front of 8- and 9-year-olds than speaking in front of peers or older people. Also, teaching is more like a conversation than making a speech, so the pressure isn’t quite the same (but that might even be a post for another day).

Out of Reach

The WordPress Daily Prompt for Thursday sounded interesting:

Write about the one X that got away — a person, an experience, a place you wanted to visit. How much would you change about your life to have it within reach again?

Sorry to disappoint, but I don’t have a very dramatic “one that got away” story, but the ones that get away from me every single day are still frustrating: story ideas. They like to appear in that half-asleep/half-awake state just before you finally drift off or just before you wake up. When they appear, they’re so intriguing that you think you’ll remember them. You might even repeat the idea in your head several times until it becomes like a jumble of random words you’ve jotted down on a sticky note with no context behind it. So if you do happen to remember it later, it makes no sense.

It’s easier to remember a sudden idea when you’re fully conscious but in a place or situation when you cannot write (in the shower, while driving), but these ideas do not come with the same force as the “twilight” ideas of half-consciousness. On the plus side, they usually make more sense and can be easily integrated into a story.

Still, you can’t rely on a continual supply of these ideas to keep popping up unexpectedly. The best way to court these ideas and get inspired is to keep writing. You can’t wait for the muse to strike, or you’ll be waiting forever.

Obsolete Technologies and Millennial Nostalgia

From the WordPress Daily Prompt:

Of all the technologies that have gone extinct in your lifetime, which one do you miss the most?

My generation (AKA the Millennials) is always feeling nostalgic for no good reason, especially considering that we’re not really old enough to feel nostalgic. I recently read somewhere that the reason for all this Millennial nostalgia is because technology has changed so quickly in our lifetime, leaving us with more to be nostalgic about in a short time. Not sure I agree with that, but there are indeed a lot of memories surrounding items that are not around anymore or have been upgraded.

I remember being tethered to the kitchen by the telephone’s cord, then getting a cordless phone a few years later and a cell phone a few years after that. I played for hours on my Game Boy Color (still have it and it still works), which did not have a backlight and whose graphics were appallingly horrible compared with today’s handheld gaming devices. I remember our giant CRT monitor and the sound of the dial-up modem and how my brother would have to stop playing his online game so I could call my boyfriend. I remember listening to Christmas music on cassettes while riding in the car. I remember going to the video store and taking out The Secret of NIMH for the millionth time and having to rewind the tape when I was done. Not even 10 years later, the video store went out of business, and we were getting Netflix DVDs in the mail (now we don’t even get the DVDs; we have online streaming). And I remember learning about the old card catalog at school, which was replaced with a computerized system a couple years later.

Whew. Lots of technological change in less than 30 years, and I didn’t even get through half of the things I could think of off the top of my head. So I guess I am one of those nostalgic Millennials after all.

But I don’t know if I miss any of those old things per se. It’s nice to look back on how things once were, but I’m not sure if I’m feeling nostalgic because of the technology itself or because those times fell in the realm of childhood/teenage years, which were easier times than growing up and having to face *gasp* the real world.

My theory is that Millennial nostalgia is caused not so much by the speed of the advancing technology but by a yearning for our childhood, as we are coming into adulthood and now realizing what we had taken for granted. It could also have something to do with the economic depression in the late 2000s and early 2010s, which made getting a job and meeting other “milestones” more difficult.

Perhaps we are not the most nostalgic young generation that ever was, but we sure do whine about it a lot. 🙂