I have done many an embarrassing thing. In my childhood, none quite so much as when I was in third grade and sitting on the floor of the multi-purpose room at school with my two buddies, Ryan and Brock. Ryan said something I found enormously funny and I snorted. The snorting wasn’t that bad, but the resulting explosion of snot, was. I clearly remember how the rope of loose, wet boogers SHOT out of my nose and how my hand reached out to grab it down at my waist. It was a few seconds before it broke off and formed a giant, gelatinous blob in the palm of my hand. At that point, I found myself in a bit of a conundrum: what to do with the snot? The sheer size of the blob made it rather unfeasible to wipe on an article of clothing. Snot does not absorb well. Plus, it’s not like I could make like it didn’t happen. The boys were roaring with laughter, and at one point Brock even said, “Cool! Do that again!”
And of course I’ve had oodles of humiliating experiences in the twenty-five years since then. Most are just the result of stupid human behaviour, but several have come as a result of stepping out of my comfort zone to try new things. For instance, many moons ago I auditioned to be the relief traffic girl at the TV station where I work. I wasn’t even on air but my voice was wavering like I had a gun to my face. I drank some water, soldiered on, did some more takes and waited for the producer’s decision. When I look back now, the ridiculous optimism I held at being offered the position was actually hilarious.
A couple of years later, I auditioned to be one of twelve contestants on a Canadian reality show. I was offered a spot on the show where the contestants (who were all writers) were to live in a book store for three days and each write a novel. The whole thing was televised and they had “challenges” every few hours for the writers to compete in. I SUCKED ASS in these challenges. I tried too hard to be smart, I was intimidated by the far more accomplished writers alongside me and I let myself believe I wasn’t good at what I do. I lost more challenges than not, and it got to be a joke that the blonde girl was going to come out on bottom yet again. Let’s all laugh at how terrible Laura is at coming up with catchy opening sentences, deciphering anagrams and recognizing famous authors! I ended up doing fairly well on my novel, but the humiliation of the actual TV show left me almost unable to watch it when it aired.
One of the most uncomfortable situations is to be embarrassed for somebody. I could tell some of my acquaintances were embarrassed for me after those debacles, and maybe even a wee bit happy about my failures. Several adopted a distinctly smug demeanor whilst ostensibly avoiding the topic. I would have rather they’d addressed the elephant in the room and said, “Good for you for at least trying out!” or “Look how you redeemed yourself with that great story!” or even “Your upper arms looked great on-screen!”.
It took me a few months, but I am glad I went through those experiences. Not because anything particularly outstanding came out of either of them, but because I stepped out of my comfort zone and did something different. How are we supposed to evolve and become more interesting, able , skilled and confident if we always do the same things?
I wonder if my smug comrades have ever challenged themselves and pushed the boundaries of what their limits are. I might make a fool of myself a thousand times over, but at the very least I’ll be a more refined human being. And, maybe, doing things that make me uncomfortable will even lead me to do great things and get everything I want out of life.
So who’s the fool?