Friday, April 01, 2011

We never leave ourselves behind.

I have always been gullible.

I am the first to admit that if you were to tell me something, my skepticism needs to be woken, grab a coffee, and read the paper before kicking in. As a kid, it was in a 'look over there steal the cake' kind of way. But lately is has developed into the latest 'Justin Bieber is gay' modern gullibility for a modern man. I think I have just always been open to listen, which is not a bad thing, but April 1st is the day for taking advantage of that.

This year, on this day, I didn't go in to work. It's my first day off in ten, and much deserved, and being that after coffee I saw that it was April fools, I was ready this year. My father has always been a great practical joker, and called to say that he and Mom were selling the house. Friends in Korea announced they were pregnant. Another friend said that she rolled up the rim to win a TV (I call it roll up the rim to please play again). Then Starbucks apparently developed hand delivered coffee by GPS and smartphone order (hey, people laughed at flying a hundred years ago!!)

I had to work at it, but I am proud to say I did not get fooled this year. At least, not on the actual April fool's day. I was pre-fooled. I'll explain.

Last weekend I attended a convention for my work as a Business Representative in the Union. Usually, I am chair of our monthly meetings, and meet with companies to negotiate agreements, I give talks on Pensions, and Benefits to the members, and never choke before a crowd.

This year, the convention got pretty heated in debate. In front of three hundred odd souls, I felt it was my time to stand up and say something. I took to the microphone, had the floor, and proceeded to look at the Business Manager, and froze. I said two words and completely choked, physically, from the throat. A few seconds of sheer terror later, and having forgotten what I was going to say, I stuttered something that had to do with the motion that had already been voted on (which was technically out of order), and then cowered back to my seat.

As a Union official, it was not an example I wanted to make in front of the membership, and may even yet have political dimensions, but I don't worry about that now.

I instead think of how it reminded me of when I was a kid, growing up in a small town and shy as all hell, picked on most of my childhood. It was for this reason I got involved in Unions in the first place. My choking reminded me of those days of having to do speeches in school, once a year, and freezing every time, sweating, heart banging in my chest, and vision crowding, just to stammer out something about dinosaurs or rockets and get the hell back to my seat where I belonged. In high school I was just coming to learn that I had a voice, if only it would work properly, when my family moved to Toronto, and I was thrown into the big wide world. It was theater that finally broke my fear of crowds, and I was relieved to be able to stand and speak my mind.

All this is to say that just like my gullibility, much as I had feared, my tendency to choke before crowds never left. I had only learned to push that twelve year old boy so far down under the layers of life lessons, that he had no chance of breaking out.

Or so I thought until that convention.

I've been wondering since how I could have done it differently, but really, it all doesn't matter in the long run. It's done. Life is too short to dwell on our mistakes, and everyone has them.

I don't feel like a fool any more about the convention. These things may not ever leave us, but they still have a way of receding into the past, and it's small potatoes compared to what could have happened. If I work on that twelve year old, I'm sure he'll go back where he came from, but not until after I thank him for the small victories. Without these reminders, I'd never try to change.

And a small victory is that, at least today, I didn't fall for anything.

Then again, the day's not over yet.

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