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Standing Up for The Last Stand Down

by Philip J Bradbury (follow)
For my first 40 years I was the World Champion Shy Person. There were no close contenders for the title; I was the shyest person ever there was. In fact, I was The Original Shy Person, the one whom everyone else learned their shyness from I was terrified of people, terrified of speaking, terrified of disagreement, terrified of conflict, terrified of upsetting anyone, terrified of upstaging anyone, terrified of looking at people terrified of the world, really.

I was afraid to speak so Id mumble so people couldnt understand me so they would ignore me so I would feel insignificant so my confidence shrank so I mumbled less coherently a pathetic little vicious cycle.

I dont know how or why epiphany moments happen but they do. Perhaps, with 40 years terror stuffed down inside, there wasnt room for any more and something had to give. Perhaps. I dont really know. What I do know is that, somehow, I realised Id let all this terror rule my life and, TA DA!, I was no longer a child and I didnt have to obey it any more. I do remember walking shyly down the street, feeling terrified that people were looking at me giggling at my silliness. But giggle I did, at the folly Id made of my life. That night I lay awake for hours, trying to think of ways to get myself over it. No ideas came, then but, in the morning, it hit me like a wet fish across the forehead why not be a lecturer, standing in front of people all day, communicating verbally, incessantly, and Id have to make myself be heard, be understood, be listened to.

Full of the fires of transformation, I marched into the local polytechnic and asked if they needed any accounting lecturers. The receptionist looked at me, silently, for a moment and then burst out laughing. I felt mortified, stupid. Then she explained that the previous lecturer had been fired the previous day and they were desperate for a replacement. She was laughing at the synchronicity of my arrival; not at me.

I met the Head of Department and after a chat, she gave me an A4 piece of paper with a course outline on it and told me to create a 17-week course from that. I was panicked but determined and, the following week, I started teaching. I was terrified for six months, every day and every night. As I stood outside the lecture room before each lesson, I had to wrestle my demons to the floor, walk over them and enter the room. I could so easily have walked away a hundred times.

Slowly, the fear subsided and I got it that I had something to contribute. My confidence grew and I started, also, running business courses at the Chamber of Commerce and personal development courses in New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. For a year I nagged a magazine publisher and, eventually, she gave in and published an article of mine. That article had so much feedback I ended up becoming a columnist for that magazine and several others for around ten years. I became the editor of that magazine and then my wife and I took over and published another one. I wrote and published several books, sang and acted on stage, was in two episodes of the TV serial, Xena, Warrior Princess, and I was interviewed on radio and TV.

I had broken out of my shell and there was no going back.

Then I came to the Land of the Shy People well, I worked for organisations in England where the hottest topic was the weather and people who had worked with each other for 20 years had never visited each others homes. I was confused by this insularity, this inability to venture an opinion or a holiday to anywhere theyd not previously been. Id returned to my closed-in childhood all over again!

I had trouble getting jobs in England and it was suggested that I tone down my exuberance which I didnt see as exuberance at all; Im just me and others not like me are not-exuberant.

So I wrote a novel about it The Last Stand Down a man who is all the closed-down men I ever commuted with on the train and tube to London and who I worked with. Im sure most of them are itching to break out of their shells. In the novel Arthur breaks out but I wonder how many do in real life. The Last Stand Down is to be published soon.

Its a scary and exhilarating experience and neither Arthur nor I can go back why would we want to?
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