Why are we afraid to be nervous?
As I sat with my 4-year old son at our kitchen table this morning, he eyed me suspiciously.
It’s been almost two years since I’ve worked in an office, and longer still since I was asked to wear anything other than “Design Professional Casual” (read: as long as all your bits are covered in a moderately interesting way, you’re good to go.)
I’m not sure when the last time my son saw me wear a tie to work was. Truth be told, I’m not actually sure he’s ever seen me wear a tie to work. But I sat with him as he ate his Cheerios, my crisp, checkered green tie tied neatly around my neck.
And he was deeply untrusting of my new getup.
“You look great, daddy!” he finally said, a smile crossing his face. It was almost immediately followed by the question “Why?”
“Well,” I said, trying to think of a way to put the feelings of a first day at a new job into his worldview, “today is like my first day of school. I’m starting a new job today, and I want to look good.”
He’s four, so I’ve gotten used to the follow-up why’s.
“Well, partly because I want my new friends to like me, and partly because I want to look good.”
“I guess I’m a little nervous. Do you remember your first day of school?”
“Yes!” he said, stuffing his mouth full of another spoonfull of Cheerios, which temporarily muted the rest of his words. “I waf nerfous toof!”
“Is it okay to be nervous?” I asked.
“Getting nervous is just part of being alive,” I continued. “You were nervous on your first day of school. I’m nervous on mine. I won’t know many people, I won’t know my way around, and I’m just hoping that I’ll do a good job. Is it okay to be nervous? What do you think?”
He nodded again, then got up and came around the table.
“It’s okay to be nervous. You’ll be okay, Daddy,” he said, giving me a big hug.
About an hour later, as I parked my car and prepared to head up to my new office for the first time, I took a deep breath. I got out the car and remembered.
It’s okay to be nervous. I’ll be okay.