“They’re just as scared of you as you are of them.”

I was about to teach my first class as a paid instructor. I’d taught before on a volunteer basis, but suddenly everything was different. People were ponying up money and I was supposed to deliver content. And answer any questions. And make it engaging. And manage the whole room of personalities to maintain a safe space. And not forget everything I knew about the topic for the day.

I was terrified.

Then my mentor dropped the above gem on me about a day before the first talk was scheduled. After a pause, he said, “You know, since you’re the instructor, they’re maybe even more scared of you than you are of them.”

Oh. OH. I hadn’t thought of that. I’d pictured a cruel and uncaring audience, one that would sit and judge and snark and belittle if I made any tiny misstep. Ancient Rome, meet education. To the arena! Fight!

My mentor reminded me that I was going to be talking to people. Real people. With fears and hangups and obstacles and joys and hopes and dreams of their own.

Sound familiar?

I bring this up because of the importance of empathy. (And because a recent light brush with hate for the gatekeepers of the profession bugged me. Crushing dreams is something I’ve been accused of on occasion for gatekeeping my daytime profession, and it bugs me when it happens. Overreact and personalize, much?) Because we’re all talking to people, with hopes and dreams and fears and hangups of their own.

There’s no demons.

There’s no monsters.

There’s people. And people are imperfect and passionate and unpredictable. Good people, and bad people. Generally more of the former than the latter.

It bears mentioning.

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