I’ve been busy at work lately.
I get home and I collapse.
The work is actually ‘good’ work – going out, interviewing, taking photos, getting my stuff on Facebook.
Good times, right?
Today we had a group of young ladies from a college in Tennessee who were here for a NCAA Division II women’s soccer tournament. What Division II teams do when they come together for these championship series is a lot of community work. Some give soccer clinics to disadvantaged youth, some visit kids in hospitals or do local clean-up work.
And some come to VA hospitals like ours to talk to the Veteran and give out ‘challenge coins’ – large, beautiful coins that signify the unit or team of the giver – something the receiver can remember them by. Some people have many, many of these coins they have collected in military or government service. I have a few.
Anyway, they arrived here and I landed up taking four of these young ladies into one of our wards where they got to meet some of our most interesting Veterans (World War II Vets – I didn’t even know they would be where we were going) and got to give them the coins and talk to them.
It was beautiful all around – the soccer players really made these guys’ day and I know the young women got a lot out it.
I did some interviews, snapped photos, got releases signed and then took the four women back to the rec hall where they met the others in their group.
I went back to the office and promptly collapsed.
Why?! This was good! The whole effort will produce a great feel-good Facebook entry.
Then I realized what was happening.
I had just been surrounded by a large group of people I did not know and through sheer coincidence landed up escorting them down hallways of Veterans’ rooms helping them look for people to talk with. Which is awkward because I don’t know these Veterans and I don’t know the staff on these wards. You see, I don’t get around much.
I don’t normally like wandering the corridors anyway – the nurses tend to wonder what I’m doing there (they don’t know me until they see the badge) and in our ceramics lab where we met the World War II Vets, I was challenged by a volunteer for taking photos (and rightly so) until she saw my badge.
This. All. Makes. Me. Nervous. Yes, it’s damn weird for a public affairs specialist to step way outside his comfort zone by just doing his fucking job.
But that’s me. And I sat with my head in my hands at my desk, trying to recover so I could be useful the rest of the day. And I hated feeling this way because I didn’t used to need to decompress after meeting unfamiliar people. And, of course, I was disgusted with myself for feeling this way.
It was then I realized that, at this point, this job, this place, was all I was ever going to be able to handle. Going from here to a higher speed PR job would solve the ‘institutional bad memories’ problem I have but it would NOT solve the willies I get being around unfamiliar people, especially in groups. My worries are always the same – I’ll make an embarrassing mistake and/or say or do something that will get me in trouble or appear not to know what I’m doing and not be taken seriously.
In reality, these are the opportunities I should take to push myself out of my comfort zone. But after being here eight years, if it hasn’t happened by now, it probably isn’t going to.
The best I can do is slap on a happy face and push myself through and pray I don’t do anything stupid.
And then go home and collapse in bed by 8.