Nerves of Steel (and Other Things Relating to Seattle)

"You ready?"

"Yea, I mean, I guess..." I say and swallow the non-existent saliva in my mouth. I'm nervous and am sure that all the politely-expectant eyes on us can tell. But that doesn't matter. We have a presentation to do and it won't get done correctly if I faint.

"So, here are the 2009 FosterClub All-Stars," our host announces and I look around at the 11 other people wearing the FosterClub polo that has come to symbolize professionalism and preparedness. WE GOT THIS,I think as we begin to form a single line in front of a mammoth of a screen.

My nerves are on fire. Like they always are before I do a presentation or workshop. The audience sometimes varies -youth at a conference, staff and foster parents at a transitional panel or some of the national representatives for CASA -but the dinosaurs in my stomach are always there and wont' go away until I say those decisive first words. Six words that announce that I am here and have committed to what I am doing."Hello, my name is Natasha Santos!" And it starts.

I was told by FosterClub staff and some of the people at the presentation that everything went well. I think my nerves had something to do with it. I think that is my mind and body's way of telling me that "it's time to get this show on the road"! When I'm nervous my senses become sharper and my mind can only focus on the source of it's nervousness. Yesterday, it was the presentation. In the past it was focused on finding ways to dodge the furious fists of my mother or the emotional abuse that issued from my foster parent's mouth.

In the past my nerves have been one of the things I could count on to be on the lookout for danger because no one else was there to look out for me. A lot of my self defense came from my listening to my nerves. Sometimes my nerves would tell my to run, other times my nerves told me to fight, and still other times my nerves told me that they best response was immobility. Now, that I am a young adult and no longer in emotional of physical danger (at least most of the times LOL!) my nerves have been re-purposed.

More often my nerves are used for things like the presentation I did yesterday. Or for when I have a 10-page paper due tomorrow that I need to start working on. Or perhaps when I'm running late for an appointment and the last bus just drove away. My nerves are always there to rescue me. To point out facts I may have overlooked; like the fact that I have a bike and if I pedal fast enough I could make the appointment with room to spare.

Many youth in foster care have these capabilities. Defenses they may have used in the past that now have to be re-purposed. For some it may be anger. Anger in the past may have been helpful to keep the pain and others away but now it's blocking you from the people and things you care about. Re-purpose it! One could use their anger to stop the messed up things that happened in your past from happening to anyone else in the future.

This is easier said than done. It took many years- and panic attacks- before I learned how to successfully use my nerves to be useful to the life I lead now. But it was worth it. And their my nerves! I tell them what to do! I took awhile but every time I use my nerves in a constructive manner I feel like I helping the child I was grow into the person I know she wanted to be.

"Your presentation was wonderful! Thank you so much for coming" A woman from CASA says with a genuine smile on her face.

"Thanks, I was so nervous" I say as she engulfs me with her arms.

"I couldn't tell at all. Your really good hiding it." She says with a playful pat. No, I'm just really good at using it.