A Morbid Fear of “Flying”

I am finding myself vastly intimidated by my lack of a scientific background. I am currently studying for a Naturalist Certification in the state of Tennessee. The course, though it is just a simple survey, is still overwhelming in its scope. I have been a big fish in a very small pond in my area of expertise for a number of years in my chosen profession so I am finding my ignorance a bit daunting but a really exciting obstacle to overcome.

I have more than a passing interest and quite a bit deeper than a novice’s knowledge and awareness of the use of natural substances for healing but I’m finding that little of my expertise is applicable in the nuts and bolts of the Naturalist course. In short, I have spent almost twenty years engaging in a very, very small sliver of the vast continuum of knowledge of the natural world. In fact, much of my experience with that infinitely small sliver is frightfully specific to the inner workings of herbs and plants that you can purchase in capsules or tinctures, vs. the infinitely vast cornucopia of edible, medicinal, and useful herbs, plants, fungi, ferns, forbs, etc.

I have quite a bit of catching up to do. Twenty years out of the classroom and in fact, the majority of that time out of the field as well, has left me scrambling to get up to speed. Much of my experience in plant recognition is remarkably rusty, due in large part to the fact that I crammed a lot of experience and knowledge into just a few short years and then, for all intents and purposes, stopped engaging with the subject much at all outside of my job and just coasted on previous knowledge.

Another obstacle that I have barely begun to face — except by the simple act of accepting the challenge of this course — is my fear of public address, which I would characterize as severe. I am a great one-on-one engage-r, in my humble opinion (and in the opinion of many of my peers), but I remain mortally terrified by the prospect of speaking to any group larger than a couple of people. Seemingly, my fear is further magnified as the formality of the address increases, so I am fine with extended discourse on my areas of expertise with small groups of people in informal settings but seemingly paralyzed by the prospect of the same discourse in front of even small groups of my own associates. By accepting the challenge of becoming a naturalist I have (however inadvertently) accepted the challenge to confront what remains perhaps my own greatest challenge — how to step past my fear and engage an audience with my knowledge and my passions without choking up, without freezing, without getting lost in self-esteem issues, fear of failure, and self-perception of a wide, shallow vessel an infinitely huge ocean of knowledge.

A requirement of this course to get certified as a naturalist is that I must volunteer 40 hours of my time to engage with the subject. While I am not on the face of it, required to speak publicly that I am aware of, it is likely that I will at some point be called upon to address someone about something. I have heard rumblings of such a requirement in the near future, so I guess I feel I may as well break down some of these hurdles now, on my own, before I am compelled by outside circumstances to do so.