Hello, hello, hello!
(Did anyone else think of Count Olaf after I wrote that? Because I sure as hell did.)
But I also didn’t mean for my greeting to be that creepy…
If you’re a Tolkien nerd, then you might be aware of this really awesome con (or Moot) that is happening on October 6th of this year: MiddleMoot 2018. It’s the first time Kansas City has been able to host it’s own Moot, so I’m hopeful that the turnaround is great, the atmosphere wonderful and the participation off the hook, so that we will continue to be a location where this is hosted in the future. Because let me tell you, friends, as a Tolkien nerd who has been one since she was really, really, really young, I am so excited to be surrounded by individuals who get my love for Tolkien, who I can have a dialogue about both the films and the books with, if I say, “Mae Govannen,” I won’t be met with weird looks, but even more salutations back. So I’m hoping the con goes well so this can continue to happen and I can continue to go.
But I am also terrified.
Because I may, um, be presenting at this, as well.
So, let me tell you a story, but I describe why I want to throw up.
I’ve loved Lord of the Rings every since my Dad took me to see The Fellowship of the Ring in theatres. I hadn’t heard of it–or Middle-earth or even Tolkien–before that moment, but I was already a huge reader. So when I found out that such an amazing film was based off books, I begged my parents to buy me a copy.
I read through them so many times the spine is broken on all of three volumes, the pages bent and ripped, but more well loved than any book in my collection.
What started as an afternoon to the movies has resulted in a life-long obsession–and there is no doubt it is an obsession–that has shaped my life quite utterly.
Notably when it was my final semester in college and, in order to graduate with honors, you had to write an undergraduate thesis, under the tutelage of a mentor and in the span of a semester. As a reward, you not only graduated with honors, but you got a wizard’s hat.
Of course, I wrote about Tolkien. That was a no brainer. After checking out the entire collection on Tolkien studies from my university library and keeping it collected as a threatening pile on my dorm desk; after six months of writing, editing, rewriting, rereading The Lord of the Rings and watching the films (because, duh), I finally had my completed thesis:
Taking Back the Shire: Tolkien’s Middle-earth as an Environmental Warning.
It’s all about reading both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit as teaching guides and warnings of not only how to protect our environment, but why we should, too, showing the threat of what will happen if we don’t, and then applying those lessons as a call to action to the world’s most cherished Shire: New Zealand.
Trust me, it’s 50 pages of the most ultimate nerdery you could ask for.
The theme of MiddleMoot 2018?
Taken, from their website: inaugural MiddleMoot 2018, a symposium addressing the role of Nature, Man, and Industrialization in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.
Um, yeah, so if that wasn’t a sign from God that I wrote my thesis for a greater reason (other than getting a wizard’s hat, as if I needed another reason), then I don’t know what is.
So, swallowing fears I’ll detail in a moment, I quickly applied and then, a month later, got accepted as a presenter and panelist for this MiddleMoot, giving me three weeks to turn my 50 page thesis into a 35ish minute presentation (with time for questions afterwards) and prepare for my first ever Tolkien-focused con.
Que panic and imposter syndrome.
The main reason for the panic? I hate public speaking. My face gets all red, I start shaking and sweating profusely and that’s for a five minute speech. Now, I have to stand in front of strangers (and my wonderfully supportive parents and boyfriend) and talk for an hour? And I volunteered to do this!? My nerves got so bad that I literally couldn’t work on my presentation yesterday, because that just made it all the more real.
As if that’s not bad enough, imposter syndrome had to come in and play, too. Basically, even though I’ve loved Tolkien since I was in my teenage years and have studied Tolkien, too, as far as in that community, I’m nowhere near as knowledgeable as some on “my colleagues.” I’ve only read The Silmarillion once and it was so above my age level that I didn’t understand it and sure as hell don’t remember it. And even though I own almost everything Tolkien has written, I still haven’t read many of the recent releases. So even though, to someone who isn’t a Tolkien Scholar, yeah, I know my shit, of course my brain keeps trying to tell me that I’m a fake and I won’t be able to make it at a con where everyone knows so much more than I do about something I love so much.
I know, friends. I know.
Nicole, stop being an idiot.
One, yes, I hate public speaking, and yes, it can be embarrassing, with the shaking and the redness of the face and whatnot. But also, I taught English for a semester while I was a GTA during (my attempt at) grad school and I did totally fine. I’ve survived speech class. Both of those things I did without being super passionate over what I was talking about (since I was teaching rhetoric). But this, THIS is a chance to nerd out about my favorite author and a topic I’m super passionate about and material that I know. Will others know more than me? Absolutely, without a doubt. Does that make my knowledge or my status as a self-proclaimed Tolkien Scholar any less valid? Absolutely not.
How about, instead of freaking out and being nervous and dreading what makes me nervous, I get excited, instead?
So, all day yesterday and today, that’s what I did: I got excited about meeting and connecting with like-minded individuals who I can nerd out to and with without abandon or fear of judgement. I got excited to present my work–a thesis I worked hard on–and take a leap outside my comfort zone. In doing that and focusing on that as a mindset, instead of my nerves, I was able to not only continue working on my presentation, but finish a first draft of it, getting more and more excited about everything I’m going to be sharing (all I have left is finding clips and photos to match, which I guess means rewatching The Lord of the Rings, oh darn…), which was a really great feeling!
Don’t get me wrong: I’m still going to be nervous as all get out when the day comes, but once I introduce myself and start talking, I think the bigger problem will be getting me to shut up.
This is Tolkien we’re talking about, after all.