The Trailblazer

Hello everybody! I was scheduled to have this post up about a week ago, but things happen, life gets in the way, and here we are with a blog post on Monday. My apologies, it won’t happen again (probably).

Happy reading and have a great week ✌,

Emily

Being the first person to do something is probably one of the most frightening things in life, next to spiders and getting caught in quicksand. It’s fun to read about trailblazers, people who did things before anyone else, but it’s always after the fact. Of course we celebrate pioneers like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Nelson Mandela for their contributions to society, but that’s only after we realized how significant they were. In their time, they were most likely unsure of themselves, doubtful of their actions, all the while being ridiculed by those around them. It was impossible for them to know if they were doing the right thing or if their actions would leave an impact. Working hard and knowing it could all be in vain is a very bitter and frightening truth to swallow.

While I’m by no means a trailblazer like Stanton or Mandela, I am the first person to be placed at CONTACT Helpline. My current role is volunteer recruitment coordinator, which is also a first for CONTACT. Out of the three full time employees working out of our tiny office, all of them had a hand in volunteer recruitment, but it was never one specific person’s job. I’m a two fold newbie, and needless to say, I’m terrified. Terrified of what, you may wonder, and obviously of I’m terrified of the obvious things – being struck by lighting, getting mugged, or doing something embarrassing in front a romantic prospect –  but I’m most terrified of failure.

This fear of failure has been significant in how I shaped my life. From the time I was young, I was always told I was smart, and I was. I didn’t have to put much effort to schoolwork, I loved reading, and I had a variety of interests. However, because I was so “smart”, I didn’t put any effort into learning, studying, or organizational skills. I was just naturally good at academics, so why bother, right? This did not bode well for 4th grade Emily who experienced failure for the first time in her advanced math class. It was the first time I’d received a failing grade, and the pattern continued until I was placed in a lower math class. I was humiliated. How could I still call myself smart if I failed at math? Who was I if I wasn’t smart?

My definition of smart shifted and changed as I grew into middle and high school. I knew I would excel in certain areas and struggle in others and that’s okay. This was only hampered when I struggled in the things I was supposedly good at. I got into several good colleges and kept telling myself I was smart, but as every year passed, I believed it less and less. I replaced intelligence with passion as my defining character trait, but even that was something I could fail at. I was the president of my university’s feminist collective, WomenSpeak, and I needed to be the most passionate, spirited feminist this school had seen. I felt threatened by feminists who were smarter than me, who were doing things I wish I’d thought of first, even though I should have been celebrating their efforts and passion. I didn’t know how to be a good team player, I needed to be a leader, and be the best one at that.

That brings us to today with my position at CONTACT. I have a great desire to do well in my position and a crippling fear of failure. Even though every thing I’ve shown my supervisor has received positive feedback, there’s still a voice in my head saying ‘it’s not enough, do better, or you’ll fail’. But when I step back and think about it, assess the reality of the situation, I realize, who am I failing? Because my position is brand new, my supervisor doesn’t have specific standards for me to achieve, and even though I’m a graduate, I’m still learning. Sycamore House is too big for my failure to make an impact on its’ reputation. There’s no outside entity grading or evaluating my performance. The only person I could fail is myself, so what standard am I setting for myself? None, because I’m too busy fretting about failure!

In the month I’ve been with Sycamore House and CONTACT, I’ve realized that the only person holding me accountable is me. I can’t undo my past – all I can do is be better than I was yesterday. And I am, most days.

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