I’m not your Superwoman.
Im not Carrie Bradshaw either.
I’m Bridget Jones with a better wardrobe.
So I picked out this outfit days in advance to wear for my big presentation at work this morning. It’s a black knee length dress with ruffles. Professional, but festive. I wear it whenever I want to feel pretty and confident. I wore it to opening night of The Color Purple a couple years back and to the Stevie Wonder party late last year.
All weekend, I stressed about this presentation. I have this off-beat idea that I’ve decided to execute. I’m not 100% about it, but I can’t think of anything better. I applied for a Math Specialist job for my district and today they wanted me to give a presentation on the best practices for teaching math. In my favorite dress, I feel like I can conquer the world though so I’m not too worried.
This morning, I put on the dress. I’m marching around the house in it and I’m almost out the door when the zipper breaks apart.
I snatch off the dress and try to fix it. I don’t have a back up outfit planned and it will take me forever to pick out something that I find equally comfortable fabulous and appropriate. I have to make this work. I remember that this happens to my favorite piece of luggage all the time and I’m always able to fix it with no problem. I’m nice with this.
I tug gently at the dress’s zipper and slowly but surely, I’m able to fix it. I put the dress back on and leave for work.
Six hours later
All afternoon at this called faculty meeting, I’ve been listening to presentations from all of the top brass. I’m operating off 4 hours of sleep from last night, and the rain, but I’m wide awake and engaged in the topics. I love where I work and what I do. I pay attention because I genuinely care about its success and my success here. I’m also the only teacher scheduled to present. I take this as a sign my boss has faith in me and trusts me to represent our team well. I feel good.
I’m not that nervous about my presentation even though I decided not to go with a fancy Power Point set up and instead chose to rely on a lot of personality that I hope will leave a lasting impression. I’ve noticed everyone who gets a chance to shine in my district has great public speaking skills. This is my big chance to show that I’m capable too.
It’s 10 minutes to go before the superintendent is set to present. She’ll talk, then throw off the mic to my Principal. She’ll present her section and then she’ll pass the metaphoric baton to me. My nerves finally catch up to me and I shift in my seat.
I feel the zipper ripping apart. It’s like in slow motion, but it happens quite fast. Impending doom descends upon me.
I snatch my dress together and carefully exit the room, clutching the fabric to my hip. In the bathroom stall, I yank off my dress, and tug at the zipper. Nothing. I have to fix my dress. I have to fix my dress!! I tug and yank.
The zipper pops.
Oh, fuck me.
I stand there for a moment in shock, then self-pity. This is my life. I am a walking dramadey, except this time it’s drama and tragedy, not drama and comedy. It’s fun to write about these things. In retrospect, they make for entertaining stories and posts. But this here isn’t story time. It’s reality and my boss, my boss’s bosses and all of my co-workers are in the next room. In 15 minutes they will be expecting me to present. And there’s no way I can.
I stare at my broken zipper thinking of all the hours of prep I put into this presentation over the weekend that have just busted apart. I think of how when I was overwhelmed with planning my presentation last week and no good ideas were coming, I had a mini-nervous breakdown in the middle of mall.
I called my father in damn near tears. I’m full on in self-pity mode, I think I am not built for this sh*t.
My father’s response (in summary): “what are you gonna do, Cam? Quit? Exactly. Woman up then!”
Finding no sympathy with Daddy, I fired off an email to a fellow educator from another school who is adept at talking me down from the ledge in a crisis:
I’m turning off Alicia Keys and putting on Karyn White. I do not rock an “S” under my ruffled dress. I am not Superwoman. I am not the kind of girl that you can break down and think that everything is ok.
(I’m a writer. I have a flair for the dramatic.)
I leaned against the fountain waiting for her response and I realized my engine’s finally run out.
I wanted to call the only other person in the world that has a natch for bringing me down to earth. TLA, but he’s out on an interview. (I’ll tell you how I know in another blog) So I call Kewon, then Mr. Conversation. They get me back on track. Mr. Conversation asks me why my job is so important to me and as I explain I realize I have to woman up just like my father said. I have to get this project—and all the others too—done. I am living my dream. I cannot just resign myself to failure. I have to try.
I had just spent every free moment Saturday and Sunday working on my presentation. It had shaped up to be really good.
And now this. All that work was all in vain. Maybe I’m not meant to succeed here. Maybe I don’t deserve to be here. Maybe trying my best isn’t good enough.
Tears well up in my eyes in the bathroom stall. I try to think of a Plan B. I’m blank. I’m out of steam. I wonder what I’m going to do since I’m not built to be a roll-with-the-punches type of teacher, since I come apart at the seams–literally– under pressure. Maybe I can’t handle the pressure afterall. If this Math Coaching thing isn’t going to work out, I have to have a back up plan.
But there’s never been one. I only had one dream.
This is it.
I have to woman up! I don’t have a choice.
I quickly pull my dress back on, cover as much of the busted zipper as I can with my sweater, bunch the fabric to my waist, and go back into the conference room.
I sit next to my boss, lean over and tell her as diplomatically as possible, that I am having a wardrobe malfunction and I will need to delay my presentation. She nods like she understands and doesn’t ask anything further. Right here. Right now. In this moment. I love this woman.
I rush back out of the room, kick off my heels and run to the home economics room. I run throuh the building –barefoot– back to my classroom. I rush the closet, and see a bin of pins sitting on top of a trunk like they were waiting for me.
I snatch up the box and run back through the school to motion to my girl whose in the meeting looking bored out of her mind to tell them she needs to go to the restroom. As she’s making her exit out of the conference room, I blurt out what happened and she runs behind me to the bathroom to pin my dress together.
She fixes me to decency, promising all along that the dress will be fine and so will my presentation. When I’m fixed, I hug her tight and thank her profusely for being a friend. Instead of telling me ‘you’re welcome,” she yells, “Go! Go! You have to present!!!” and shoos me out of the bathroom. (I am so thankful to have such great friends.)
I run back to the conference room. Barefoot.
Just before I open the door, I slip back into my heels. I walk in as dignified as possible, and hear my name. My boss is at the podium. I start toward her, only to realize it’s not my time to present yet. She’s just started her presentation.
I take a seat and try to calm my nerves, try to get my mind right for this presentation. I’m flustered, thrown off in a bad way. I don’t even know if my C-game is accessible right now, much less my A-game. I grab a napkin from table and wipe my face. We’ve been told by the higher ups that we’re not being judged, but I know an opportunity to make a good impression is upon me. I have to do a good job—despite my sweating brow.
I deep breathe myself into semi-calmness, but I’m still hot as all get out.
When my name is called to go to the mic, I’m not totally unfrazzled, but I’m better. I vow to give this presentation my best. I’m going for broke. I don’t have a choice.
I came with my A game.
I was in my zone. You know sometimes when you know you’re on point? You’re rhythm and flow are just right? That was me up there at the mic. I did better than I thought possible. Experts say the best way to do well is to envision your success. In all those times I rehearsed my presentation, I didn’t see this.
As soon as I take my seat and settle my nerves (and wipe my brow. I felt like I was having a hot flash up there), I realize I couldn’t have ever done this well if the zipper hadn’t popped. That adrenalin rush, that moment on the ropes was what I needed to realize the stakes and just how much they meant to me. I am built for this afterall.
When the presentations wrap, the District Representative gets up to explain just what the point of today’s presentations were. She recaps how we were given a last minute assignment with vague instructions and it was to teach us how to perform under pressure. The higher ups wanted to see what we were capable of. They wanted us to see what we were capable of. The lessons learned today will take us far in life, she tells us.
It was a test.
Life is a series of them.
Today, I passed.