When I was 4 years old, my Greek immigrant parents sent me to nursery school here in Knoxville, TN. Up until that first day of school, I had never spoken nor heard the English language. My parents were the sole caregivers, as my dad was newly establishing his career as a physics professor and researcher, and my mother was raising me at home. Greek…speak Greek….I could hear my father say age 6 forward. What happened between ages 4 and 6 affected my communication patterns.
Experts today will tell us that communication is key to everything in life. Warren Buffett was recently quoted saying: “If you can’t communicate, it’s like winking at a girl in the dark — nothing happens. You can have all the brainpower in the world, but you have to be able to transmit it,” Without a way to convey our talents, gifts, contributions, they lie dormant, and of no use to positively affect the lives of others.
As I acclimated to the East Tennessee culture, way of speaking and English language, I found myself closing up, becoming quiet, finding a safe space. When I would speak to my parents, the communication in the Greek language would flow freely with expression and zest for life. In school, however, I would clam up in embarrassment when I would try to say funny sounding words to express my thoughts. A simple attempt to say, ‘hello’ to my teacher would quickly turn into a red faced little girl blurting out her thoughts that remained Greek. My pathway of a resilient life began at this moment.
Throughout my schooling, even while in college, I remained very quiet and reserved in the classroom setting. Everywhere else I was a social butterfly, and still am. Those few months at the beginning of nursery school caused a specific anxiety crippling my communication in school. Speaking, to this day, is such an accomplishment for me, as it takes a step away from that engrained memory, into a resilience to feel awkwardness and continue to speak.
As a therapist of 20 years, and now an Executive Life Coach, I have found myself in a variety of environments requiring concise, clear communication. People in East Tennessee are kind and a breeze to socialize with, making my efforts easier. When I present, teach,coach whether in groups or individually; I continually implement creative techniques to help me embrace the vulnerability, fear of failure and ridicule. Resilience is created and built everytime I step out in boldness.
I was speaking to a childhood friend the other day. She used the word ‘Brave’ to summarize my life and endeavors. This is a person who knew me with all of my shyness throughout my childhood and adolescence. My response to her and anyone’s response to those who observe our efforts should be one of gratitude. It’s exciting to embrace life, take one step at a time to accomplish our goals, and continue to get up and keep going despite setbacks.
Resilience is just this; recognizing, validating what affects our communication, working through and growing, and just taking action steps despite the fear. We can put those thoughts of the memories in their place. In my instance this is a crippling memory that I redefine everytime I speak. It takes a strong person to fall down and get back up. I really do not see a place in our vocabulary for failure. What defines failure….giving up? Not trying again?….I choose not to use that word. Instead, I acknowledge the situation, confront barriers, plan for progress moving forward, and execute trying again. For a butterfly to be transformed from the caterpillar, it takes great struggle with time. As human beings we are made to recover and be resilient. A transformed life is in our hands for the making, one step at a time. Life is an adventure, one of progressing, learning, and when we have transformed let’s give back to help others in their own pathway of resilience.