By Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer and Community Manager
Jaunty graduate Paula Spiese describes dealing with "social shyness" her whole life. She laughs saying, "I don't really have this problem at work at all. And if you were to ask my friends they'd say, 'She's not shy! She plays on stage.'" Indeed, Paula plays guitar and percussion, with a large circle of musician friends, playing traditional European dance tunes, North African music and the blues.
Paula is a project manager and website content specialist. She's also writing a mystery novel and an illustrated kids' sci-fi book she's working on with a friend. "I've always loved to write, ever since I was little kid I loved writing like crazy," she says.
She'd been trying to push through her shyness for the past couple of years, but felt she still had a ways to go.
"My social group is awesome, I'm really fortunate," she says. "But I would sometimes be at a party full of people I knew and still feel awkward. Unless some of my best friends were there, I'd look around and still feel like I was by myself." Paula dreamed of being able to, "Walk in anywhere and approach anyone, and talk to them.
This goal became especially important last fall when she heard about the San Francisco Writers Conference in February. She really wanted to go, but had a vision of herself standing against a wall and not talking to anyone.
She discovered Jaunty on Meetup and was so delighted by the free workshop she signed up for the six-week course.
"That whole coursework is really thought out," Paula says. "I consider myself a funny person, but seeing the humor broken down like that was really interesting! I got something out of every single class."
Before Jaunty, she could start a conversation if she had a clear reason, but says, "Walking into a bar and just talking with someone would be impossible."
To work on their cold approaches, Paula and a classmate went to a business networking Meetup. Paula spotted a man standing off by himself. "I had no reason to talk with him." But she knew she needed to go up to him. "It was scary. My heart was pounding. And then of course he was perfectly nice and everything was great."
These days, Paula says cold approaches aren't that big of a deal for her. "It's like jumping into a cold pool. Once you go up to someone and say, 'Hey, so what have you been up to today?' It's not that bad."
At the Writers Conference, Paula spotted one of her favorite authors signing books after a workshop. "I waltzed right up to him and sat down, and engaged in this fifteen or twenty minute conversation with him. We talked about doing a trade where I could do some SEO stuff for his website and he could help me with some editing." She feels she never could have done this before Jaunty.
Paula was so inspired by the conference that the day she got back to work she handed in her two-week notice. Now she's focusing on her music and fiction writing, and consults part-time.
Paula enjoys going out with her new Jaunty friends and has been making connections with musicians from her larger circle who she'd previously felt too shy to talk with.
"I think no matter where someone is on the social anxiety or shyness scale, they'd get a lot of benefit with Jaunty, whether it's the six-week course or a one-on-one," Paula says. "I was amazed by what a huge change it's made."