#SWAAYthenarrative

Please Don’t Sit In The Back Row

3 min read
Career

Earlier this year, I was speaking at an event and walked into a small auditorium which held no more than 250 seats. I gathered my notes and carefully got situated on one of the high-top chairs trying to remember what Kate Middleton would do. To cross or not cross the ankles, that was the question.

I quickly surveyed the room. And the first thing I immediately noticed was that the front row was entirely empty. Each and every chair. Alone and just waiting to be occupied.

People trickled in and climbed over each other to get seats in the very back. Others asked colleagues to move down the row to make other seats available. Two individuals even came in just as we were about to start and sat in the aisle. And by the aisle, I mean the floor, right on the steps.

And the front row? Still entirely empty.

"Plenty of seats up front everyone. I don't bite, come on down," I joked. Attempting to make eye contact with those on the floor of the aisle. And they would rather sit on the dirty floor than sit comfortably in a chair.

Because anything but the front row. I'll sit on the floor, I'll stand in the back, or I'll even stand in the hallway listening in through the door. But please, no, not the front row. I can't. I won't. I don't.

Why don't we want to sit in the front row?

"I don't sit in the front row" or "I don't do front rows" was my mantra for much of my life. I always sat in the back row in college and then in graduate school (except for when they assigned seats which was just terrible.)

Early on in my career, I would enter the empty room before the meeting or workshop started, and there I would be, marking my spot in the back corner. I would even get there early so I could sit in the back. And if I had to leave to use the bathroom, I would be sure to mark the chair with my black cardigan. Just in case someone tried to sneak into my back-row seat.

The back was safe. I didn't always have to pay attention. And let's be honest, I didn't want to have the attention drawn to me.

I was introverted, and I was shy (which are two different things) and afraid of having to contribute. Afraid to use my voice. Afraid I would say or do the wrong thing. And for someone who saw herself leading and making impact in corporations, I had to start to tackle this fear head on.

"I don't sit in the front row" or "I don't do front rows" was my mantra for much of my life.

As I found mentors who helped me with my fear of speaking up – and I mean speaking up in meetings, speaking in front of leadership, and speaking in front of a large audience - one mentor encouraged me to think about where I chose to sit and why. She advised me to always sit at the table, and to pull up a chair to the table if necessary. And to always sit in the front row.

"Pull up the chair for others to sit at the table," she coached me. "And bring a colleague along to sit in the front row with you."

Because when you sit in the front row, we all make a physical commitment. To be present, to be seen, to be noticed, to be engaged, to be supportive of whoever is speaking. To make eye contact, to smile, to nod our heads in agreement as the speaker shares their knowledge. To build our confidence. And to maybe, just maybe, work our nerves up to ask a question or even make a comment.

Why don't we want to sit in the front row?

We don't want to be called on, questioned, or asked to contribute. We don't want to have to use our voice. Because some of us are still working on finding our voices. Some of us are afraid if we use our voice, and say the wrong thing because others will judge us. Some of us are disconnected and disengaged. We are just trying to get through the day. It's just another meeting/event/workshop on the calendar to attend.

Some of us are scared. Because if we sit in the front row, we might actually be seen. And whether we want to admit it or not, we are trying hard not to be noticed and get by.

Because when you sit in the front row, we all make a physical commitment to build our confidence.

Next time you attend a meeting, sit at the front of the table. Sit in the front row. Be seen. Be noticed. Let people know you were in the room, in that meeting. Let your voice be heard. And bring someone along with you. Don't let that front row continue to be unoccupied.

Please don't sit in the back row. And for that matter, when an actual chair/seat/spot is available, please don't sit in the aisle either. And certainly don't sit on the floor.

This article was originally published September 30, 2019.

Creative DIY Tips for Making Your Own Calendar

The current state of the world definitely affected us in many ways, it made us stay locked up in our homes away from all the social events and seemingly fun stuff. But the responsibilities didn't just vanish into thin air, they are still there, waiting to be organized and prepared. Times are super hectic and you are probably not in the mood to think about the foreseeable future, but there are ways to turn in into a fun time. Starting a journal or making a simple calendar can bring you peace, use that creative time to yourself and relax while doing it. Grab your colored pencils, stickers, scraps, and everything in between, your inner DIY queen is about to jump out!

Fill in the blank

So probably the easiest way to start when it comes to making your own calendar is by simply printing a blank template found online. This way you'll have a base, a blank canvas if you will. Take all the materials that you have in your house, like washi tapes, sticky notes, glittery colorful pens and anything you can think of that could work as a decoration on your calendar. And go at it! There are no rules when it comes to decorating, it's super personal and it can differ from person to person.

The only real advice you'll need is to leave some space while decorating, don't overdo it since it will clutter and distract you from the written parts. Finding the perfect template that will suit your aesthetic is extremely easy and fast, a simple google search could get you whatever you want and the best part is, it's free! There are many printable options out there, so don't worry about not finding something you'd like, the possibilities are endless and you'll find just the right calendar you imagined!

Start from scratch

If you don't have a printer at home or you're just determined to make the calendar yourself, there are awesome ways to make the best and most unique personalized calendar there is. This gives you the full freedom to do whatever you can think of, want to make a calendar from old newspapers, do it! Want to cut out a certain shape and disguise the calendar as an art piece in your kitchen, why not?

Nothing is stopping you when it comes to unleashing your creative side, use everything that you can get your hands on, think outside the box, don't be afraid to experiment. Making a calendar from scratch is an amazing opportunity to explore your artistic side, especially if you've been busy with work and responsibilities. This is a great excuse to do something creative, at the end of the day you are making it for the purpose of being more organized and having everything mapped out and planned. So make this time, the best time possible, be free and create!

Mix and match

Since there are absolutely no rules when making any diy project at home, what's stopping you from making the ultimate, super personal calendar! If you have basic knowledge in photoshop, you can even modify the blank calendars you got online, add pictures of your loved ones and family, maybe your pets or anything you like, and then print it out. Or you can print the blank template right away and add pictures or polaroids later on by using some washi tape.

Also, you can even paint over the printed blank calendar, this is a good option for those who aren't as skilled, so you'll have a base to start, just dip in your paintbrush in some acrylic or watercolor paints (or whatever you have around the house) and go for it. This is a great way to start doing artsy projects while still having some form of direction and help.

Have fun

Sure keeping your priorities at bay and making plans and notes for everything is important...but the heart of this project has to be your willingness to turn something as boring and blank as a calendar into something spectacular. This calendar should proudly be up on your kitchen wall, so loud and colorful it just draws your attention to it.

If the calendar is decorated, personalized, and fun to look at, maybe it will inspire you to look forward to some events or responsibilities even if you didn't feel like it in the first place. So be creative and free, there are no rules so just go at it. With everything that happened this year, try to be positive and find little joys in seemingly insignificant things like diy calendars!