Any first day is hard. We of the Anxious Hearts Club know that that first step into the unknown, no matter how well-prepared, can feel like stepping into pitch blackness. I’m not good with unknowns or uncertainty…which makes my decision to be a paraprofessional for a 4th grade class even more inexplicable. I can’t explain it, even to myself.
Today was the first day at my new job. I worried, and I obsessed a little (or a lot). And it went surprisingly well. Well, perhaps except for the recess part, which felt a little bit like Lord of the Flies. Not that I don’t fully expect the unexpected going forward. I’m dealing with children, after all. Anything’s possible. It’s a good thing I like children.
There are ways to illuminate the darkness of the unknown, ease the transition from the familiar to the unfamiliar:
- Prepare spiritually. I received a blessing, prayed, read the scriptures, and pondered this decision often. It would not have gone nearly as well—at least in my mind—if I hadn’t taken the time to prepare.
- Prepare mentally. As much as you might like to pretend this (whatever change it is) won’t happen, putting off facing it until the last possible moment, such intentional blindness only makes the transition that much more jarring. Go over any information you might have; I like to gather all possible sources and digest it over a period of time (if I have it). I feel more in control. Maybe control’s an illusion, but my anxiety doesn’t know that.
- Prepare physically. Be healthy and strong and clear-minded. Get some sleep. I’ve opined at length upon the need of healthy sleep habits, but suffice it to say that you’ll feel better mentally if you take care of yourself physically. I spend way to long not doing the latter, and as a result the former deteriorated.
- Go in with a positive attitude. When asked what word I would use for my feelings about the first day, I said “anxious.” I was trying to be honest, but I regretted a bit not saying “excited.” Because I was excited; I was just anxious too, and I went with the glass half empty option. Opt for the glass half full. It makes everything so much easier.
- Expect the unexpected. No matter how much I prepared, I knew that I would never be perfectly prepared; the reality would never fit flawlessly within my expectations.
- Expect some bumps. You’re not going to go through this first day (or second day or so on) perfectly with nary a bump. And you don’t want to, because bumps and flaws and failures are necessary to future success.
- Remember that fear and faith do not exist together. Have faith, let the fear go as much as you can. You can be anxious while being fearless. Be fearless.
There are countless ways to alleviate your anxiety in the face of new experiences. Prepare where you can, expect imperfection, and refuse to succumb; your first day will be fine, maybe even better than fine. It will be great. Expect the great and be the happier for it.