All settled into our hotel rooms, we decided to venture out into the streets of our new home for the next 6 weeks: Montreal, Quebec.
We struck out on our own, thrilled to finally be walking around in the alluring city of Montreal. French words filled the air. The soft sound of a street musician’s acoustic guitar echoed from a metro entrance. Hare Krishna followers were brightly dressed and chanting on a sidewalk. The scent of…french fries? Yep, I definitely smelled french fries as we passed several poutine stands.
As it began to rain, someone suggested we grab a bite to eat.
We found a cozy cafe. I stepped up to the counter and the barista turned to me.
“Bonjour-Hi. Quelque chose boire?”
I froze, for what seemed like a long time.
This was the moment I had been waiting for…and dreading. Panic set in. I was afraid of sounding stupid. I didn’t want to mess up.
I would just speak English, get it over with, protect myself from embarrassment. I was sure the barista, the other students, and everyone else in the cafe would surely hear my mistakes and laugh and laugh and laugh. Not worth the risk.
English started to roll forward on my tongue. “I…” I hesitated again.
If not now, then when? If, after years of earning a French minor, I did not allow myself the joy of practicing with native speakers, when would be the right time? I adored this language! Was I going to spend this entire 6 weeks terrified of making a mistake and let all of my hard work go to waste?
I was tired of letting fear steal away these moments of my life.
All throughout middle school and a lot of high school, I can remember feeling a paralyzing fear follow me around. I was terrified of people’s opinions, of being embarrassed, of being laughed at, of being abandoned by friends, of not being enough, of losing people that I loved….the list went on and on. Call it normal middle school awkwardness, but for me it was to the point where I barely ventured outside of my house for my entire 7th grade year.
I didn’t even know it at the time, but looking back I can see it now. What I thought was a something terribly wrong with me I now recognize as social anxiety.
For those who may not be familiar, social anxiety is the fear and nervousness surrounding encounters with other people. The one who battles with it has constant thoughts and feelings about being judged, humiliated, criticized, embarrassed, or negatively viewed by people. Feelings of inferiority, of not being enough are very real. It has been clinically labeled as the third leading psychological disorder.
Practicing a foreign language to a fluent speaker basically checks off every single one of those boxes. It makes you the center of attention, it can be embarrassing, you easily can be laughed at and you definitely aren’t good enough.
I have sadly, let this irrational fear control my life at times. I’ve passed up opportunities to meet people and have experiences because I listened to lies that told me something would go wrong.
I wasn’t a shut-in, but I was often lonely. It’s hard to let people in when you’re terrified that they’ll see a flaw in you.
The year before I traveled, I was blessed to meet some wonderfully kind people. It took their consistent love—and a lot of prayer—to help me begin trusting that I really was someone who could be loved for herself. I encourage any of you who struggle with social anxiety, to not give up seeking out friends who will kindly and compassionately pursue you. They’re out there, I promise!
I believe that love chases fear away.
My friends pushed me take the opportunity to go to Montreal when I was worried about making the wrong step forward.
So there I stood, at the cafe counter, weighing my options. I could play it safe like I had all of my life, speak English, duck my head and go. Or I could respond in French, take the risk of failing, but walk away knowing I had made the choice that fed my soul.
There’s a quote by Elbert Hubbard that’s become quite meaningful to me: “If you wish to avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.”
I’m done with letting my life be nothing.
Even as I write this now, lies come into my brain. People won’t like your voice. You’re not relatable. You’re not enough. But I’m choosing not to listen now. I’m not going to be stopped from fully living this one life that I have.
Bravery is choosing not to let that fear control you. It’s stepping forward despite doubts; choosing to grow from failure instead of letting the fear of it freeze you.
Love drives out fear.
Now I believe—now I am confident in how much I am loved. And I loved speaking this language too much to fly home with life regrets.
My voice slightly shaking, I finally answered the confused barista:
“Je voudrais une tasse du cafe, s’il vous plait.”
“D’accord,” the barista responded. She entered the order and went on to the next customer.
I walked away red-faced and shaking, but feeling like I had won a great victory!
If you ever find yourself in Montreal during your travels, there are some fabulous sights to see. The Notre Dame here, in my opinion, blows the Parisian one away! The summer time hosts several absolutely amazing city wide festivals. And the most perfect Montreal bagel that I still dream about is located at St-Viateurs. You have simply got to have it!
If you’re afraid of ordering in French, don’t be.
Choose the joy of letting yourself try.
Fear doesn’t deserve to take that moment from you.
About the Blogger: Brittany Dickey
Brittany just recently launched her own blog, The State of Awake, where she documents her family’s debt payoff journey. When she’s not blogging, you can find her watching Project Runway, relaxing on Delaware beaches, or making home-made cold brew. She and her husband are planning on traveling to Pacific North West this fall! You can connect with her through Email, Pinterest, or Instagram.[/fusion_person]Brittany just recently launched her own blog, The State of Awake, where she documents her family’s debt payoff journey. When she’s not blogging, you can find her watching Project Runway, relaxing on Delaware beaches, or making home-made cold brew. She and her husband are planning on traveling to Pacific North West this fall! You can connect with her through Email, Pinterest, or Instagram.