After I speak to groups, I open up the floor for questions. The question I receive most often is: “How did you know you wanted to speak about mental health?” Some of it goes back to what I wrote here about why I speak up on mental health issues.
But, it’s also a bigger question than that. Sure, it feels good to do it and I like to help others, but the how of it is something different.
What students are asking is about confidence. They want to know where I got the confidence to know I was sure enough of myself to pursue something.
In college I lacked much confidence in anything, especially myself. In fact, I’ve lacked confidence in myself for much of my life. It took many years of therapy and introspection to realize that I’m a worthwhile person who can achieve great things. I had to learn to love myself.
It wasn't until my mid-thirties I realized what I’m good at. And that is public speaking. People often told me how much they enjoyed the historical tours I did. They also said I was a natural storyteller. I won at The Moth, a storytelling event. My confidence grew.
So how did I finally get to that place where I knew this is what I wanted to do? I researched and saw one could make a career of it. I acknowledged and took to heart what others told me: I was good at public speaking. I found a topic, mental health, of which I had great passion. Finally, I very much wanted a change in my life.
The past fifteen years working in libraries has been my primary source of income. And while I enjoy some aspects of the work, I realized I was unhappy. I found myself depressed and in despair, both at the job and when I came home. While I still think working in libraries is a noble profession, it was not the right fit for me. I’ve learned that when we come home from work miserable, it’s time to move on. There was a coincidence of unhappiness and finding something I was good at—storytelling and public speaking. This pushed me to get out of my situation and make a change.
That’s how I knew speaking on mental health was what I wanted to do. It’s not for everyone, but it’s the right path for me and one I’m enjoying and find quite rewarding.
Like what you read? Want to have Kurt come talk to your group about belonging, loneliness, and mental health? Click here to contact him about speaking at your event.