I am not really a centre-of-attention kind of guy.
I am just not comfortable being in the forefront where everyone is looking at me. Doesn't really matter the size of the crowd either – I just don't like being everyone's focal point.
I never have. I was a very shy child and preferred to blend into the background as much as possible.
Getting up in front of the class to give a report was terrifying and I would often hope for a bout of malaria, or scurvy or something the day of the event so I would not have to perform in front of my peers.
But of course any sickness was reserved for the weekends and I was fit as a fiddle when I had to give my report – a very nervous fiddle that is.
I gave my report with not just butterflies, but California condors fluttering in my stomach.
I managed to get through the presentations somehow, but it was not pretty.
Um, er and ah were the most spoken phrases and I stumbled my way through my notes.
When doing drills in hockey, I always made sure I was in the middle of the group so I did not stand out. When coaches were selecting players and when I saw them concentrating on me I wanted to melt into the ice.
And that is why I find birthdays so nerve racking.
Birthdays are supposed to be days of merriment and fun. When I was a kid they were, but as I grew older I began to dread them and not just because I was getting older.
I noticed how incredibly uncomfortable I am as the centre of attention when my then co-workers had a little birthday do for me.
I knew it was coming because that is what they did at this office. At 11 a.m. on someone's birthday, work would be put on hold for a half hour while everyone gathered in the boardroom to celebrate your arrival on the planet.
Deep down I was hoping they would miss my birthday, but when I saw the boss walking down the hall with a birthday cake I knew there was no escape.
I was fine as everyone gathered around the table, chatting away and sipping coffee.
It was when they all looked at me and started to sing Happy Birthday I wanted to bolt from the room like a gazelle being chased by a herd of cheetahs.
I fidgeted through the birthday song while trying not to look too obvious I was uncomfortable. I failed miserably. But eventually the song ended and we all ate cake. I no longer work at that establishment and the place I work at now has a very strict 'no employee perks of any sort' policy so I never have to worry about the birthday trauma again.
The weird part is, I have done some public speaking as an adult and was quite at ease with a microphone and a few notes.
OK, at ease might be a bit of a stretch. More like terrified into numb submission to the point where I could have been addressing the nation and it would not have bothered me.
Actually, it went pretty well the half a dozen times I have done it. I managed to throw in bits of humour mixed with the message I was trying to deliver.
However, I still prefer to hide behind a keyboard where no one can see me and I can simply rewrite something I do not like, because unlike writing, what has been said, cannot be unsaid.
Copyright 2014 Darren Handschuh