Our best Christmas letter came from a friend who went well outside her comfort zone to try to influence the outcome of the Congressional race in the 2nd district of Maine. She campaigned door-to-door in Aroostook County for Democrat Jared Golden, who was in a tough race against the incumbent Bruce Poliquin. Her letter included several interesting anecdotes about the experience, not all of them pleasant. (“A tiny white dog on a too-long rope attacked my ankles with great persistence til the owner came out. I expressed my admiration for its audacity.”)

Door-to-door campaigning is not easy for anyone, especially for an introvert, especially in an area not exactly receptive to liberals from “away.” I confess that I turned down an offer from a friend to help him campaign for Golden in a small town in the 2nd district.  The efforts of such courageous people helped turn the tide for Golden and, in truth, the composition of the House of Representatives.

Reading that letter reminded me of a former Bowdoin student for whom we served as “host family.” She was an African-American, first-generation college student from Birmingham, Alabama. She excelled at Bowdoin and recapped her experience by delivering a powerful speech at Commencement entitled, “Rising Through Fear.” After spending two years on a Fulbright in Indonesia — first as a teacher and then as an administrator for Fulbright, she went to Oklahoma State University where she is on the threshold of completing her PhD in Counseling Psychology.

We all face moments in our lives when we have a chance to “rise though fear.” My own such moments have been small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. Leaving an advertising job in NYC to take a job in the Admissions Office at Bowdoin; leaving the admissions field to get into the communications field with a firm in Baltimore; and departing from that firm to go out on my own. On the personal front, I left a long marriage 33 years ago to start a new life. About the same time, I gave up drinking. (Maybe I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t give up drinking.)

I used to have a huge fear of public speaking — not helpful when you’re a student at the Harvard Business School — but now I really enjoy the spotlight, assuming I have something to say.

As a child, I avoided speaking to strangers, but not because my parents warned me against doing so. Rather, I was just shy; I didn’t want to be noticed. Over time, I’ve become ever more willing to strike up conversations with strangers, much to my happy surprise most of the time.

As a writer, I have had to overcome the fear of being rejected or judged or criticized for what I write or for the way I write. Any writer — or any artist of any kind — must gain the confidence to put himself/herself out there and let the chips fall where they may.  Most artistic people, in truth, serve as their own worst critics.

I’ve been a pretty good sport about losing most of my life, because I grew up in a family in which we played games of all kinds all the time. In such an environment, you learn quickly that you’re not always going to win. A few weeks ago Tina and I played a game with our three-and-a-half year old granddaughter Phoebe. When Phoebe didn’t win she burst into tears. I have no doubt that she will learn to overcome her fear of losing.

Happily, I’ve made some progress in overcoming many of my fears. But I have a long way to go. Please don’t ask me, for example, to go door-to-door campaigning in Aroostooc County. I leave that task to people much braver than I.

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns. [email protected]

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