Yesterday I finally went to a wine tasting at Thames River Wine and Spirits, which hosts these evenings every week. It was a nice event, and I love their cavernous underground cellar space, which looks like a stage set for a prison scene in some Verdi opera or another, only with wine racks lining the walls. All the same, I could feel my Wine Store Anxiety ratcheting up: the feeling that I really should know a lot more about wine that I do, the dread of revealing my wine ignorance to other people, the fear of being laughed at by more knowledgeable oenophiles, the sheer baffling information overload of all those bottles and regions and names and types of grape. (Plus I didn't know anyone there, which, for me, creates anxiety of a different kind. Maybe I'll find someone to take with me next time.)
It's ridiculous, because I know there are plenty of people out there who are happy to help, but Wine Store Anxiety still plagues me every single time I try to pick out a bottle of wine. I always feel like I should be able to teach myself about it on my own, but I never know where to start, and the prospect of asking for help makes me want to run and hide. Most of what I do know about wine I've learned from knowledgeable friends who were willing to give me pointers; I think if I had more conversations like that, or maybe a little semi-formal instruction,* I'd probably feel less intimidated by wine stores.
It occurred to me that this is probably how students with "library anxiety" feel when they walk into a library: overwhelmed, ashamed of their ignorance, afraid to ask for help, and in over their heads. It's not a perfect analogy, of course, but I suspect that many of the same approaches might help both types of anxiety: friendly outreach, a bit of class time, the chance to work with a peer and feel a little less alone, small manageable assignments (only one database at a time; only red wines from northern Italy) rather than trying to learn everything at once.
None of these ideas are earth-shattering. But it's probably good for someone in my job, with years of library-related education, to know how it feels to be a panicky newbie.
* I always meant to take a course at the Wine School of Philadelphia back when I lived a couple of blocks from it, and I never had time. Ah well. Someday.