ANXIETY: it’s the new adventure. But don’t take my word for it. My word is fickle. Don’t even take my actions. Do, however, take my advice. You see, it’s the advice of someone who knows anxiety, someone who has been anxiety, someone who has not only worn the T-shirt, but also the girdle, the long johns and the balaclava of anxiety. And recently, as I stood in my stocking soles in front of a sell-out crowd in Glasgow’s Tramway Theatre, readying myself for the scariest five minutes of my adult life, I finally shrugged off the bonds of anxiety and exposed myself to the world. It was Friday, it was TEDx Glasgow, and I was on the menu. TEDx, for any who don’t know, isn’t your ordinary afternoon at the

Playhouse. Part of the worldwide TED phenomenon of Ideas Worth Spreading, TEDx brings speakers with purpose to a local audience – in this case, the south side of Glasgow – to present their take on a common theme. Ours: why not here? And it’s big. Not in volume particularly; with 600 tickets available, the event still has the feel of intimacy among friends. But in stature, TEDx is a behemoth.

Those tickets sell out fast. Willing volunteers usher problems away from the eyes of paying guests. And the sun shines. Okay, I’m sure that’s not a contractual obligation. TEDx Glasgow is slick and stylish and ... and then I turn up. Me: twitchy, awkward, so far from slick that slick can’t afford the train fare. I kick off my ballet pumps, stick a photo of my backside on the screen – from when I was a life model for artists as part of an earlier adventure – and joke about exorcisms. On the same stage that Judy Murray had stood on not hours before, for heaven’s sake! But somehow, anyhow, it worked.

The crowd laughed, they gasped, they listened, as I shared with them the lessons of a life less terrified. 

Adventure isn’t out there

A CONTROVERSIAL start, I know. Who wants to hear that the glamour of adventure isn’t within reach? Well, actually, me. And so should you because it’s the truth.

For 20-odd (and I mean odd) years, I battled with my nerves. For the most part, they won. The world became a nightmare, filled with people I couldn’t face and situations

I couldn’t control. I shied away, letting the curtains close, and my world reduced to the size of a two-bedroom flat. I was a wreck, once even blacking out at the thought of joining a four-person book group – and two of them were only there for a heat and a biscuit – so what on God’s green could I tell a room full of high spirits about adventure? Surprisingly, something. When you struggle to leave your house, and answering a phone is one stress too far, you withdraw from life, like sunshine from a daytrip. Fighting my way back out taught me the benefit of treating every challenge, everything, as an adventure, and making even the mundane momentous. After medication, counselling, hypnotherapy, all failed to cure my neuroses, I learned to stop looking outside of myself for solutions to problems on the inside. Standing on that iconic circle of red carpet then was just as scary as I had imagined it would be, but that only meant it could be my biggest adventure yet or adventure isn’t up a mountain, it isn’t in the middle of the sea. It’s something in you, that you choose to take with you or choose to leave behind. Adventure is in my pocket now, and off we jolly well go. 

Turn barriers into climbing frames 

BARRIERS are only barriers if you stop at them. Mine, since childhood, was my nerves, and I could never really find a way around that. Trying to go around, of course, was my mistake. Once I decided to climb over, to face the things that scared me most and deal with the consequences, my nerves suddenly became the thing to stand upon, my very own jungle gym. I was forever scared, nay, terrified of people: of what they thought of me, how they judged my tics and talks. Nowadays, I point out my flaws at every turn, snatching back their control over me. TEDx gave me the opportunity to do that en masse, and it felt bloody good. Reaching the point of standing before a 600-strong audience, trying not to catch sight of the five-minute timer ominously ticking down to my potential failure as a speaker, wasn’t an overnight achievement, and neither is it the end of the odyssey. But as a waypoint, it’s a biggie. 

Terrify yourself constantly 

I WON’T lie: the thought of sharing my story at TEDx turned my stomach into a lepidopterist’s wet dream, particularly once I had perched among the crowd for a while, drinking in the real ideas of the proper speakers before me. Of course, life inside the head is often so much worse than life in reality, and once I crept into the spotlight, microphone strapped neatly above my quivering lips, things just about came together. I opened my mouth and the words tumbled out, mostly in the order I’d intended. But the terror of the hours, days, weeks beforehand still lingered in the background, like an anxious parent – and that’s just how I like it. Fear, when used well, is a remarkable motivator.

It’s a leveller, a limiter and a bit of a swine, but it can also be a friend.

Protecting myself from fear for twenty years kept me in a box of my own making, living life to the emptiest and pretending I had everything I needed in there.

Nowadays, I welcome fear, encourage it even, egging myself on to the point at which the nerves kick back in, then finding new ways to cope. And it’s good for me. Being scared by the big things – the life modelling and TEDx talks – reminds me not to be scared by the little. Fear has its place; just make sure to keep it there. Then I curtsied, slipped on my size fours and left, but not before sharing my own big idea. Don’t ever feel you can’t have adventure, or let anxiety stand in your way. Adventure is everywhere, in everything. So why not with you and why not here?