“You always seem to do this so well”, one of my team members told me when we were practicing for a presentation this week. I brushed it off, and said something like “It’s just practice, I guess!” Which is partially true, I suppose. I have practiced.
But what I have practiced is more than just public speaking. It’s the act of appearing to have it all together when I don’t. It’s the art of speaking confidently about myself and my work when I don’t feel like it’s true. It’s the act of doing hard things, knowing that I have done them before.
Maybe I got better at public speaking because I struggled through a year on my high school’s speech team, hating it the whole time. But I think it’s more than that.
I feel like I’ve learned everything the hard way. I’ve learned about relationships by initiating them, and often being rejected. I’ve learned about love, not from being pursued, but from being the one to ask hard questions, to lay it on the line, to fight for the relationship before realizing he wouldn’t do the same.
I’ve learned about work from a series of jobs that required me to give more than I got in return. I’ve learned something new about life every time I got cut out of the budget, or I got fired, or I quit because I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I’ve learned to sell myself, because over and over again, I’ve had to.
My life has been hard. Those five words are hard to say, because we’re not supposed to say them. More often than not, we’re told to belittle these feelings and think about all the ones who have it worse than we do.
My life can’t be hard, because I don’t have cancer.
My life can’t be hard, because I have food in my refrigerator.
My life can’t be hard, because I haven’t experienced real problems.
But someone told me once that struggle isn’t a competition. I don’t have to win in order to say I have experienced pain. The only frame of reference we really ever have is ourselves, and I can tell you that from my own perspective, my life has been hard.
So when people tell me that I make something look easy, I find it strangely ironic.
But here’s the funny thing. After years of fighting and struggling and risk-taking, eventually it feels easier. That doesn’t mean we should discredit our accomplishments, but only that those of us who have climbed mountains before are no longer afraid of a big hill.
When I gave up teaching several months ago to become a web developer, I think I experienced this for the first time.
I wasn’t afraid to take a risk, because I have ridden high-speed busses through Central America, and I have quit jobs, and I have asked guys out on dates. I wasn’t afraid to dive into real projects and mess them up, because I have failed before, and I have failed in much bigger ways.
In the past few months, I have solved hard problems. I have learned new things quickly. I have taken on leadership roles. I have formed lasting friendships. I have done so many things I never thought I would do, and I think it’s all because I have struggled.
Having confidence is hard, but earning it was harder.
So, the next time someone asks me why I would make a good web developer, I think I’m going to tell them I have climbed a mountain.