How a Mismatched Job Experience Helped Me Find My Courage

03/17/2016 08:53 am ET Updated Mar 18, 2017
Business woman greeting partners in the meeting room
Business woman greeting partners in the meeting room

I was paid good money to talk to myself on national television about a topic I knew nothing about for four hours, a few times a week (and not have a panic attack).

I was 21 years old living in Austin, Texas working as a student/actress. Acting opportunities were slim (and pretty much all unpaid), so when a friend who was a cameraman for The Jewelry Channel asked me if he could pass my headshot on to his boss-man, I said heck yes -- not expecting anything to come of it. I had no hosting experience and only owned costume jewelry.

Three weeks later I received a call from a chipper middle-aged man asking me to come in for an interview.

"Um... OK?"

Because I was 21, I obviously stayed up until 2 a.m. the night before the interview drinking with my boyfriend. I woke up late, showered off the booze, guzzled coffee, and showed for the interview 20 minutes late. Winning?

I was met by a security guard who escorted me into a mammoth boardroom, with an equally mammoth table separating me from the head of the studio and head host. They were both beautiful, intimidating, and wearing fabulous jewelry.

They introduced themselves, passed me a ruby ring (at least I think the stone was a ruby), told me they were setting a timer for three minutes, and instructed me to sell the ring to them until the timer went off.

I was an "um"-obsessed bumbling idiot. The timer went off, they passed me a (gold?) watch and set the timer for five minutes.

"Kill me now." (Said my ego.)

The timer went off, they thanked me, and said goodbye.

I received a call from the head of the studio eight days later. He opened with, "Well, the bad news is we had to interview 800 people. But, the good news is, you're the one we're going to hire."

I was excited for two seconds, then horrified because I would actually have to do the job. I would have to be brave.

I spent the next month going to the studio every day to sit in on the head host's shows. She was a jewelry slangin' badass.

During this time, I compiled my "Jewelry Bible," where I had a section for every stone, precious metal, and all the other stuff that goes into making jewelry -- all labeled carefully with tabs.

Then, one Tuesday night at 8 p.m., my new boss called to say the host for the 4 a.m. show (it was a 24-hour live network) had called in sick and they needed a replacement -- me. I said yes before I realized I would be so nervous I'd probably have a bowel movement on camera.

My first show was a nightmarish train wreck. Unstoppable nervous shakes are not a good look when a close-up of your hand is broadcast nationwide.

The one cameraman in the sound stage looked like he was going to fall asleep, and the show's producer and director alternated between talking about what they did last weekend, to switching to 30-second commercial breaks because the rookie host looked like she was going to pass out.

But, I did it. I talked (pretty much) nonstop for four straight hours, mainly about a gemstone (Tanzanite) whose name I could not pronounce.

I was certain they were going to fire me, finally realizing their horrendous mistake -- but I was still high on life.

My boss called me the next day to say I did great (maybe he was also high?), but that he wanted me to come in to watch the recording of my show, and go over some notes. It was as painful as it sounds.

They kept giving me shifts, and I got better.

I was given an average of four shows a week, and was the newbie who accepted all extra shifts.
Because all my shifts (that lasted eight hours total) ranged from a start time of 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., I became a hermit who only got out of bed to hawk pieces of polished rock -- and I loved it. The job had turned me into a "big girl," making "real" money at a "real" job.

After one year, the economy went downhill and our salaries were brutally hacked. I quit and moved to the Caribbean to become a rescue scuba diver.

But my random stint on national television as a jewelry saleswoman taught me I could do anything -- challenge accepted and conquered! When I was giving birth to my son (naturally!), I honestly thought, "If I survived working at The Jewelry Channel without having a nervous breakdown, I can definitely do this."

Thanks, random scary job, for helping me tap into my hidden well of courage.