OTL Release Uncovers Memories of Seventh Grade

Release weekend! Finally holding my book.This past weekend was wonderful. Despite losing an hour of sleep – a mixed blessing that I know I will appreciate in a few days – I had the privilege of seeing good friends, reconnecting with old ones and hearing the first trickles of positive feedback from those that started reading the book.

In fact, people have been so positive and supportive, you’d think I’d be on cloud nine. And I am, don’t get me wrong. I have been blown away by the way my family and friends have rallied around me, excited to read my story and tell their friends.

So it kind of took me by surprise when Sunday night my heart began to race. And then my fingers began missing the keys on my keyboard.

"Why am I so nervous?" I thought. The book is out. People like it. They're excited to read. For the first time ever, there are real, live, non-publishing world people reading my words. All over the country. And world!

Gulp. No wonder I'm having heart palpitations.

As this realization set in, I decided to retreat to the kitchen for some much-needed marshmallows with a side of hot chocolate. And as I dove into that sweet gooey goodness, I got to thinking that I haven't felt this nervous in a long time.  In fact, probably not since the first time I ever broke out of the crowd all alone, back in seventh grade. At my first-ever school dance.

My new obsession. A gotta try.You see, back then we used to have these dances in our junior high gym. No one went with dates, you just kind of showed up in groups. It was supposed to be less pressure. Just fun. But as the first one approached, I was so nervous, I convinced myself I didn't want to go. I mean, who was I kidding, I didn't know how to dance. If I went, I'd be sure to look like a fool.

Yet on the day of the big event, I realized that most of my friends were going. So after dodging questions about my attendance all morning, I started telling people that I’d be there too. It wasn't until I got off the bus that afternoon that I realized in my haste to fit in, I'd forgotten to make plans to carpool with a group of friends.

Meaning I would have to go to the dance alone. Double gulp.

That evening, I worried incessantly over what people would think of my solo arrival in a way only a seventh grader can. I picked at my mom's dinner, then agonized over what to wear. Finally, I settled on my new bell bottom jeans and a long sleeved green t-shirt with two little white buttons on the collar. Then I let my mom trim my long hair, adding the subtlest hint of those Friends-style layers that dominated the 90s.

An hour later, I was on my way. I still remember sitting in the car with my dad in front of the junior high.

"You know, you're really brave for doing this," he said, holding my shaking hand. "Now go on in and relax. I'm sure you'll have a great time."

One of the best albums of the '90s.I looked at him, eyes wide, then fumbled with the car door. A minute later I was in the gym, running over to a group of friends. Ten minutes after that I was dancing to Ace of Base and Spice Girls and the rest of the latest hits.

In the end, I had a great time. I'd gone to the dance alone and realized that by being myself, I’d had fun. Made new friends. Enjoyed hanging out with old ones.

So as I finished my hot chocolate last night, hands shaking just as they did over 15 years earlier, I tried to channel my 12-year-old self and remember the lesson I learned all those years ago.

Be brave. Relax. And have fun.

Putting yourself out there can be scary, but if you never try, you'll never reach your goals.

THANK YOU to all for your incredible support and wishes. I hope you enjoy the book!