On Boats and Big Boulders

The Celebration of Service for our Schweitzer Fellowship cohort was last Wednesday at New Orleans Yacht Club.

Paul and I got there too late for the boat trip.  So we were stuck enjoying the sunset from the pier.  We weren’t entirely sure what to expect from the night.  We knew some program funders would be there, as well as some from the new group of Fellows.  As part of our fellowship requirements, we prepared posters for viewing during a cocktail hour.

When we sat down to dinner, our program director asked each of us to come up and talk to the crowd about our projects and memories about the Fellowship year.  Impromptu speaking!

Have you ever had one of those moments where you are up in front of a room of people and notice someone unexpected in the audience, maybe someone you’ve been sort of nervous about seeing, and have a total freak out mid-speech?


Oh, well, me neither.

That whole shuttering blinking thing I did last Wednesday when I saw one of my committee members smiling at me in the audience?  Yeah, that wasn’t me losing my train of thought or being distracted by the !!!OMG!!! running through my head.  Not a bit.

That was how Paul met my Committee Member Extraordinaire, whom I could call Dr. Comforting, Dr. Calming, Dr. Confirming, or Dr. Consoling and still not quite capture what this particular person brings to the table.  It had been a LONG TIME since I’d checked in.  My committee chair (the one who is suppose to guide everything I do) had strongly suggested I sort of keep the rest of the committee on the sidelines until I had a pre-defense draft ready for review… an appealing choice, but one that was freaking me out.  What if I alienate another member?  Or, what if I ignore my chair’s advice and get thrown off track by someone else’s comments?  Ack!  The confusion!

So far, my way of handling it was to ignore everyone.  A wonderful strategy if my goal is to never finish, or so it seems.

Bottom line is that Committee Member Extraordinaire was INCREDIBLE when we spoke after the speech.  I told her where I was and what I was doing and was honest about the advise from the chair.  “I think that is great,” she offered, “I love it when people can work that independently.”  It knocked the wind right out of me.  Then, she pleaded with me to speak with public health students about Schweitzer, congratulated me about taking over (temporarily) as program director, and just generally made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  (Note, this is distinctly different from how committee members usually make one feel.)  Paul turned to me afterward and said, “I love her.  She is fantastic.”

“I know,” I answered.  I forgot how supportive she is.  How could I forget?

Seeing her and getting all of that out in the open took a huge weight off my shoulders and I feel so much more prepared to finish this thing.  I am starting to see that it is something I truly can do…