I’m sitting in the audience filled with my peers, coworkers and powerful business executives, trying to calm my rising anxiety. A lot is riding on this presentation. It could literally be the difference between having a job, or being on the street. Armcorp just hired me, and if I don’t ace this I know they’ll be wondering if I’m worth it.
To make matters worse, my boss is sitting right behind me and he’ll see everything. I’m doing my best to stay still and not appear nervous. I hold my head upright and do my best to project confidence, even though I’m drowning with anxiety inside. I hope he can’t sense that I’m nearly having a panic attack right beneath his nose.
I can do this, I tell myself. I’m strong, smart and confident. I have this presentation memorized. This is what I do, and I’m damn good at it.
I keep repeating these words in my mind, letting it become a powerful mantra that drives back the anxiety that threatens to send me running from the room a nervous wreck.
I will succeed. There’s nothing I can’t do. They hired me because they were impressed by my resume and experience. I have absolutely nothing to worry about.
I obsessively click on my phone and look at the time. Each presentation is fifteen minutes long and I’m up next. Two minutes left. Shit. My heart won’t stop racing. I dim my cell’s screen and put my phone away.
I don’t know what I’m going to do when I’m called up on that stage. I’m practically shaking like a leaf.
A soft voice interrupts my anxious thoughts.
“You’re going to do fine,” Eva White, a coworker who’s sitting right next to me, says. I look over and she’s staring at me with empathy, her large brown eyes looking at me reassuringly. For a moment, I feel my anxiety ease and I’m grateful that she’s sitting next to me.
Like me, she's dressed to impress, in a sleek black pantsuit with her dark red hair pulled back into a professional ponytail.
I smile back at her, unease twisting my stomach, and mouth, thank you.
“You’re welcome.” She gently pats me on the leg to comfort me and I’m reminded of her nickname. Sweet Eva. I’m so lucky to call her a friend. In the corporate world, there's no shortage of people who will backstab you in the blink of an eye to climb the ladder, but not Eva. She’s a team player, and it’s one of the reasons I trust her already. When we’re together, shit gets done.
The announcer walks back up on stage to the podium as the previous presenter leaves, and despite my mental pep talk and Eva’s reassurance, my heart begins doing backflips and sweat slicks my palms.
“And now,” he says into the microphone, “I’d like to introduce the keynote speaker presenting Armcorp’s quarterly report, Miss Charlotte Rose Harrison.”
Oh my God. I’m so fucked.
Polite applause floods my senses and I climb to my feet with a tight smile on my face.
You’ll do fine, Eva mouths to me.
I give her a thankful smile despite the butterflies fluttering in my stomach.
I make my way to the front of the room as quickly as I can without falling on my face in these heels, my heart beating wildly with every step. I’m careful not to trip as I climb the steps to the stage and walk over to the podium. The announcer hands me a small clicker to control the projector behind me. I glance up and see the powerpoint I prepared. My heart races as I square my shoulders and straighten my back.