Welcome back! We start with an essay on my experience being The Reluctant Soloist growing up. Then the Queen of Shitty Situations, my friend Nora, joins us after just completing her final round of chemotherapy. Life has really thrown her some curveballs in the last few years, losing a parent to cancer, seeing the other parent have a massive heart attack, then receiving a cancer diagnosis herself. Nora and I walk through all of it: the chemo experience, things they don’t tell you about cancer treatment (and what Sex & the City gets wrong about it), the impact it had on her marriage, including how her husband gave her a mohawk, and how we can support our friends and family when they’re faced with similar shitty situations.
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The Reluctant Soloist
I’m not the most outgoing person.
This surprises a lot of people, especially people who have seen me grow up.
I did a lot of outgoing things as a kid. I competed in local pageants, modeled for local advertisements, acted in commercials and on stage, and loved singing solos in the choir.
But I’m realizing I did those things not because I enjoyed them, but because I was good at them.
I was a cute kid and my big toothy smile looked great on camera. I genuinely like having my picture taken.
As I got into high school, I discovered I was blessed with a nice singing voice. I genuinely like to sing and act. I love being on stage.
I actively hate being the center of attention.
These seem contradictory. It all comes as a surprise to me, too. But it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot.
I truly believed I loved the spotlight for a long time, but as I’ve developed my understanding of anxiety, I realized that was my mom’s story about me, not my own. I remember feeling exposed and uncomfortable during my time as a child model. I loved getting my hair done and dressing up in cute clothes, but I dreaded the part where I was expected to pose front of the camera. When I was around 11 years old, I remember doing a photo shoot where I was supposed to have fun and dance with a little girl around 6 or 7 years old. She oozed charm and effervescence. I felt awkward and shy. I was so glad when that was done.
I had several solos in my high school choirs. I loved singing them in rehearsal. They made me feel important. I absolutely hated singing them in performances. They made me feel naked, judged, and lightheaded. The stakes were too high and I would inevitably miss a high note or come in a beat too early. I have a great voice, but I’m not the best musician. I do my best work in groups.
During my pageant days, my mom coached me on my walk across stage. “Remember to blow the judges kisses!” she reminded me. I remember freezing. I couldn’t fathom the thought of blowing kisses to them. But I didn’t want to be a disappointment.
I’m pretty sure I did bloww the kisses.
Because I was outgoing.
Because I was a good girl.
That was my story for too long. Extroversion equals goodness.
I realized recently that I don’t have to be the center of attention to do the things I love. I don’t need the spotlight. Sometimes the spotlight will shine on me, but usually on its way to someone else. Someone who loves it. That someone is not me.
That does not diminish my talent or my drive.
And my reluctance does not make me a bad person.
It makes me an introvert.