Overcoming Social Anxiety with Dreams, Ambition, and Cow Noises…

I started my dream job recently, working with the summer climbing camps at my local facility. It’s been a blast. As a kid, I put in two summers of volunteer work with the climbing camps, back when they used to let us bring the kids up in the rafters of the building to rappel down. The good ol’ days: no lesson plans/ many instructors living, breathing, & often sleeping the night at the wall.

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A bunch of dirty, happy, obsessed gym rats. And the kids loved it, too!

We’ve reformed now, of course. Spanking new facility, some ground rules, a couple safety procedures. Now that I’m officially behind the scenes, I can’t say it’s a bad thing. The kids absolutely love the lessons, gain more from them, and we have a great team.

It’s always been my ambition to work at the climbing wall. I’m extremely driven to spread the love that climbing gave to my own childhood. My goal is to become a better instructor, share my knowledge, and become a cherished part of the community as a staff member. To say the least, my expectations of myself are high.

Thursday, week one on the job, I sprained my ankle at work. With my wrist already out of commission, this was a bit of a setback. I’m lucky it’s holding up well enough for me to stand for most of the day back at work but, with crazy kids and a crazy sport, you can imagine it’s quite unfortunate.

The way I best express and inspire, concerning climbing, is through movement. You can see how happy I am Now I’ve gotta find that awesome presence of mine while being still! It’s a work in progress. Finding my unique, effective, fun teaching style is something I really want to work at!

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Watching the other instructors, I have such great role models! Most of them are university students, have lots of experience, and have amazing, unique talents for managing the kids. They each have such a personal skillset and charisma that make the camp ridiculously fun. Michael with the amazing stage presence, Jeff with the great energy & psych, Robin being such a lovely guy, and Amy’s fun-loving yet impressive ability to manage the kids.

I’m really happy to be with such a team! I just can’t wait to find the unique presence I know I have in me to bring to the experience. The instructor who impresses me most, Danny, has such an incredibly chill aura about him. He explains things so calmly and laid-back,  but in a way that the kids surprisingly love! Being an improv guy, he has a great sense of cool and subtle comedic timing. The kids find him lots of fun, really cool, and very approachable. That’s something I aspire to!

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Since the majority of the instructors worked together last year while I took a summer hiatus at another job, and are young male adults, there’s a sort of unimpeachable fraternity atmosphere that’s been kinda getting me down. They’re all great friends, which I absolutely appreciate in a work environment, but there isn’t much place for me in the way they run their system. When they’re on a roll passing off to each other, it’s hard for me to jump in and try my hand at teaching the subject. It’s something I know I’ll get around, with time, perseverance, and a bit of force, but it’ll be hard to work my way into the clan when I can’t join in their climbing sessions. To be honest, in terms of chatting, I realized NOTHING COMES TO MIND TO SAY TO 20-SOMETHING MEN! Not really a demographic I’ve befriended, to this point. Time to learn.

I realized I’ve never really taken initiative before. Well, I have taken leadership within situations I’m inclined to, such as on my climbing team, or within clubs or my group of friends. However, I’ve never really taken charge in an open situation where the ownness is completely on me to create or mess up. And to be honest, I think that’s something that girls aren’t encouraged to do the same way as boys, growing up. Taking charge of the situation, emphasis on taking. But it’s absolutely necessary and a positive tool to reach success and your own potential. That’s something I’m struggling with.

On a day last week when I was feeling particularly down about the social situation at work, I stood washing dishes in the kitchen sink, contemplating social anxiety.

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Upset that I hadn’t been able to loosen up or transcend my own boundaries to reach out more to the kids and instructors, frustrated at my social anxiety, and ready to goddamn go get ’em, absurd martian noises from the Sesame Street telephone skit ran through my head. “Mooooooooo.” I wondered what I could possibly say in social situations that would be cool, witty, or right. Then it came to me…. “Brrrrrring, brrrrring!!” (another reference to the fantastic skit)…. Cow Noises!

Cow noises! MOO!! Oh, there was my relief. No matter what path my life took, no matter who I became, that’s one noise I can always be sure will come up in future conversations. Think about it; whether with goofy friends, at a drunken party, or with your kids, or to bug a significant other, you can always count on cow noises to be useful, and witty. A lifeboat. Something reliably useful in your social arsenal.

So, by the way, I really must insist you watch Sesame Street’s The Martians Discover a Telephone skit. Yip.

I can’t begin to explain the gladness with which I met the realisation that I was guaranteed to make more cow noises down the road. Perhaps I should just hone my cow noises to perfection for these future instances…that’ll make me a sure master of the social art. But no! The glory of the “moo” is it’s raw and unpolished nature — the ‘I woke up this way’ phenomenon. Commitment and company is its only demand.

What I’ve realised is that becoming an amazing instructor is not just a dream — it’s an ambition, personally and professionally. That’ll make me work even harder!

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Follow the Hermit Crab Lifestyle for more diatribes on the unrelenting quest for a lifestyle of adventure, simplicity, and sheer cliffs to climb.

Cheers!

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