“But mama, what if no one sits with me at lunch and I’m all alone,” my daughter tearfully asked the night before her first day of 8th grade at a new school.
Suddenly, all the memories of my own feelings of loneliness from new starts came flooding back. And then, as I worked to look for the good in those memories, I remembered a time when that lonely feeling gripped me, too, in a very public way.
After my first year of law school at University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, I signed up to study abroad under Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. I remember well the welcome dinner at a lovely beer garden in Salzburg, Austria. As I entered the garden patio, it was packed with 100 faces I didn’t know. Some were students I had passed in the halls, but most were a year ahead of me and I didn’t recognize them at all.
Suddenly, the dinner bell rang and everyone seemed to know where they were sitting for dinner. Some sat in folding chairs around round metal tables while others scooted into wooden booths that rimmed the outdoor garden. As my husband and I stood there looking around for empty seats, it felt like all eyes were on us as the last two standing. We both spotted the only empty seats in the garden — a booth for four. I dove into the booth as quickly as possible, relieved to be out of the spotlight. As we sat down, time seemed to stand still as my head filled with thoughts of embarrassment and loneliness. Lost in my thoughts, I didn’t even notice Justice Kennedy and his wife, Mary, until they asked if we minded if they joined us for dinner. Of course we didn’t mind! They scooted into the booth across from us and my emotions quickly shifted to excitement and nervousness. What a treat to have an intimate dinner with the guests of honor!
We had a lovely dinner together and Justice Kennedy was gracious to pose for a photo with me at the end of our time together. My daughter had the opportunity to meet him in 2018 when he swore me into the Supreme Court of the United States before his retirement.
Sharing my story with her gave her hope for her first day. And, I’m happy to report that she navigated that day like a champ and made friends who ate lunch with her. She told me that night, “Mama, I wasn’t nervous at all today. I didn’t even have a knot in my stomach.”
It’s All In Your Head
The reason most people remain stuck and don’t venture out into new situations is because of fear. At the most fundamental level, remaining stuck comes down to fear. What you don’t face controls you. To overcome the fear, you need to confront and do the very things you don’t want to do. The instant you do, you take charge and it no longer has any control over you. The ironic thing is that fear only exists in your imagination – it’s always something that hasn’t happened yet. The fears are not real – they’re only the way you evaluate things in your mind. Next time you find yourself stuck and afraid to move forward, challenge yourself to move forward knowing that your actions will build your confidence. By moving forward, you’ll also have a positive story to tell yourself next time you face a new experience.
Work With Me
I coach women every day who want to take courageous actions yet they are gripped with fear. We often need someone to help us overcome our fears and step out in a bold new way. When you’re ready to take that courageous step, schedule a time with me to talk about coaching through what’s holding you back.