So far, so good. Five hours and some change left before we arrive. My stomach's remarkably calm given its history - I think I'm in theatre auto-pilot mode. I only feel nervous about going onstage in the weeks preceeding the performance, and the moments immediately following it. Immediately before a performance, I feel a surge of adrenaline, and a sense of calm at the same time. Both last the duration of the performance. I guess you could say this whole experience is one of the biggest performances to date.
I rediscovered the power of a smile while boarding the plane for the last leg of the journey. In Houston, I followed behind a girl about my age who is obviously leaving for a study abroad as well. Her father stood at the gate saying goodbye to the end - much the way my mom did this morning. The girl looked back a couple of times, her eyes damp and her face less than joyful.
I did the only thing I could think of, though it took a major amount of effort to overcome my own fears - I smiled at her, saying, "It's tough, isn't it? I left my mom back in Portland."
Those few words and the smile had the effect of a remote hug. She shyly grinned back, wiping back a few of her tears. We chatted, discussing the basics - where we were studying, where we were coming from, that sort of thing. We never exchanged names, and only spoke for a moment - but it definetely had an impact on me for sure, and I believe on her as well.
If nothing else, it went to show me that I can overcome one of my most crippling problems. Those who know me may not believe it, but I've never been completely at ease speaking with people in general. The idea of public speaking scares me to no end. Meeting new people, jumping into a situation where I am discovering people and being discovered, effectively having no past and barely a present - all these things lead to panic attacks. Simply put, I'm shy. Debilitatingly so. Over the past twenty years, I've learned how to surpress it to a certain extent, but the symptoms still show. I babble, telling people more than they ever wanted to know, simply to avoid that which terrifies me the most - silence. Babbling is more of a one-on-one interaction, however. If I find myself in a group where I know few if any of the people, I clam up. Bret's housewarming comes immediately to mind, though once David and Julia started talking about things to which I could contribute, I opened up a little. There's a reason why I claim to blend into the woodwork - unless I am effectively dragged into conversation or someone I know is there, my voice is barely heard.
However. A girl can only do so much when moving from place to place, and finding herself alone and needing to meet people. In general, in school I would simply lie low for a few days, see if either anyone noticed me or there was anyone who seemed non-threatening and open, and then begin to insinuate myself into those circles.
In college, I changed tactics a bit. During orientation, I would find myself many times in a room of people, none of whom I even remotely recognized. So, I established my "college personality" by sitting next to someone, making a wisecrack, thus making that person at the very least smile, and thus introduce myself. It worked rather well - I still remember the first person I met on campus that week. What (I think) no one saw was that my hands were usually clenched so tightly that I could hardly open them to offer a handshake. I would usually be hyperventilating a bit as well, and I was terrified. I wonder how many people noticed? Those of you who know me/remember meeting me, tell me if my terror was obvious - I'd be most interested to know what people's first impressions of me were.
I feel like I'm reinventing myself again, which does have an element of theatrical excitement to it. Will I be Stephie, the perky, happy, cute lil' thing with the dimples that take up half her personality? Or will it be Stephanie, the older, jaded, sarcastic-bordering-on-bitter "adult" who refuses to be a people-pleaser? I know the Stephanie of high school is effectively gone - the depressed, weak, clingy little girl trying desperately to make people love her, only to find that she's been used time and again. I don't think she'll be back anytime soon. Perhaps it's time to be just Steph - a bit calmer, a bit more serious, a bit less trusting, but not as jaded and pessimistic as the Stephanie of bygone years.
Good grief, this is a long entry - this is what I get for sitting here with pen and paper for so long. There's nothing like being thousands of feet above the earth in a pressurized metal tube hurtling through space to make one contemplative.