Home / Op-Ed / Undergrad in anxiety

Undergrad in anxiety

author: matt wincherauk | editor-in-chief

Credit: Literary Electic Program

I’m going to start this op-ed off with a shocking statement: most English students are introverts, and most also hate speaking in front of a crowd; crazy, right? Part of the reason that I got into the English program here was because it meant almost no group work, mostly essays, and the reality that I wouldn’t have to do much talking, either in front of a class or in public. So, when I say that speaking in front of even a tiny crowd terrifies me, it really does scare the crap out of me.

Fast-forward to October 22 and the terrifying reality of presenting a conference paper at the Literary Eclectic conference put on by the English department and the English Students’ Association. I’m sure that we’ve all faced that kind of fear that stops you dead in your tracks. You’re short on breath. Your heart is pounding. You can’t focus on anything except your own impending doom. Despite the fact that my paper was well received both in terms of the grade and its presentation back in March, I couldn’t get the feeling of dread out of my brain. It didn’t help my anxieties knowing that I was presenting with two colleagues that I knew are particularly brilliant.

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. No, I didn’t run screaming out of the room in pure terror (though I did think about it); instead, the opposite happened. I calmed down significantly, and proceeded to deliver the paper in a calm, collected voice. It wasn’t exactly a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth, but a solid two-run double. What really stuck out to me was the support from the English community, students and faculty alike. Instead of seeing critics in front of me, I saw the inquisitive faces of colleagues and peers that took my words into consideration, and hopefully learned something as a result. I saw friends that had taken the time to talk me off the ledge before my panel, as well as people that I haven’t always seen eye-to-eye with. Both were equally supportive before, during, and after my presentation. It was quite the relief to see it, but not a surprise in the slightest. Ever since joining the English department in my second year, all I’ve ever gotten is support from those around me, and the Literary Eclectic conference was no different.

So why tell this story? Well, what I want to get across is a lesson that I’ve learned in my five years at the University of Regina. That is to take advantage of the opportunities given to you here to try something different, to experience something that makes you a little nervous. I know it might sound like cheesy quote that you might find on a tote bag, but it still rings true. Sometimes you just have take a leap of faith, not knowing is exactly what might happen to you. Looking back on my conference experience, I can tell you that I never imagined myself doing something like that. I never thought I was smart enough in the first place, and my anxieties about speaking in public were just icing on the cake. But, now that I took that leap of faith, I look forward to my next opportunity, whenever it might come. So, use university as an opportunity to do something that you never thought you were capable of. You might like the rewards, and maybe find that you have a new passion.

About John Loeppky

I am an MFA candidate, writer, editor, and administrative firefighter.