How did I even get here?
I’m standing in a room full of extremely powerful people. It’s a Canadian Women in Communications event and I'm a last-minute tag along addition.
“I’m Erica’s date,” I find myself saying. It’s easier than delving into an explanation of what exactly I do these days—a smattering of project management, design, writing, marketing, brand building, film production and motherhood.
My palms are sweaty and I know that at some point I’m going to dribble food down my shirt because that’s what always happens when I want to make a good impression.
I feel like I have food in my teeth. Do I have food in my teeth? Oh God.
I look at Erica and she smiles encouragingly at me. I take a sip of my wine and surreptitiously swish it through my teeth just in case.
I’m standing in Linda Schuyler’s living room. No biggie. Not a big deal at all. She just created the gospel according to Degrassi is all. My face is burning and my eyes are getting dryer by the second.
She’s walked up to us and is now chatting with Erica about the last time they hung out, so long ago. They’re trading updates, talking about their kids and the conversation comes to a natural pause.
Oh crap. Just say something. Shake hands. No wait. Sweaty palms.. you have gross sweaty palms. Just do something Kat, don’t freeze. Oh balls.
I jumpstart my courage and turn to my right to introduce myself but some keen, poised start-up has extended their hand and gracefully launched into an elevator pitch. Crap. I smile meekly.
I’m sure there’s something in my teeth. My tongue darts around my mouth searching for strays.
How did I get here?
I look at Erica and her eyes are laughing at me. “Just be you. Have fun.” I take a deep breath and try to lose myself in listening to the stories of the fascinating women in the room.
Erica is speaking at tonight’s event. And when Erica Ehm gets up to speak you know it’s going to be something good.
You just do.
It doesn’t matter what the event is, who the audience is. She’ll be genuine, articulate, and deliver the kind of message that will leave courage buzzing in the small of your back.
Tonight, she’s talking about ‘How to Get What You Want’. I have no idea what the content is going to be because Erica is notorious for delivering presentations that somehow always hit the nail on the head even though she only has a vague idea of what’s going to go into it when she starts out. She’s a pro.
The room exchanges timid, friendly smiles as we settle into our spots. Erica shifts from one foot to the other and somehow as she gets ready to speak her presence grows exponentially, silently captivating every pair of eyes. Her voice is clear, strong, and powerful.
“..One of the most important things that I learned to get what I want was to ‘Just Ask’… The other was to say “F_ck off.”
My face breaks into a grin. I scan the room and am rewarded with the perfect moment – the moment that every woman’s shock turns to delicious approval. The nodding and smiling puts a spark in everyone’s eyes. This isn’t a lecture anymore.
This is sheer flammable enthusiasm.
The evening shifts into an organic group conversation about women, social norms, strategies to support one another, and how to harness success. It’s a level playing field—there is no such thing as a stupid question or an out of place comment.
We talk about leading corporate monoliths, corporate culture, the importance of forging ahead into the unknown as an entrepreneur. We talk about mentors and motherhood.. we talk about zombies and Transformers and Snoopy Sno-cone Machines.
By the end of the night we are friends on the same team and I am feeling grateful, overwhelmed, and electric.
I decide that I’m going to walk up to Linda Schuyler, introduce myself, and tell her that I’m making my first short film even though my mouth is dry and my palms are sweaty. I realize that if I don’t say the things that I want to say.. if I don’t just jump in and take a risk I’ll never get anywhere. Worse, I’ll regret not saying something. And I don't believe in regret.
“So Linda I’m totally going to be ballsy and tell you that I’m producing my first short film.”
“What’s it about?” She was smiling. Smiling. That’s good, right?
And then something happened.
I relaxed. I just started talking. I told her all about the script, our approach, how we were trying to market ourselves while positioning the project as a resource for film makers.
She was asking me questions that made me think. I was answering. We were laughing.
Erica was right.
Sometimes you do have to Just Ask. Even if it’s asking yourself why you’re getting in your own way.
Sometimes you have to tell your fear of being judged to just F_ck Off.
It’s a good feeling, finally giving yourself permission to succeed.
Thanks to Erica Ehm, my amazing friend, employer, client, and mentor for taking a chance on a girl she picked up on Twitter.
Thanks to Linda Schuyler and Stephen Stohn for being totally authentic and so generous with their time and insights.
And thanks to the CWC for providing such an incredible, supportive forum for women in communications to learn from each other, take chances, and grow together.
See you at the next event.