I can still feel the lump in my throat today, I can hear my voice attempting to croak through, I can sense my stomach turning, I can see the look of disappointment on my high school English teacher's face as I stood there, in front of the class, unable to give the required presentation.
It surprised me, this sudden inability to speak. As a child I was in theater very young and ready and willing at any moment to be the center of attention, but that day in front of my class, it didn't matter how prepared I was, my body wouldn't allow me to speak. I carried that feeling with me for decades, I shied away from presentations in college and managed to get out of them at work, for a while anyway.
Even though I was terrified to speak in front of a group, I wanted to. Few things thrill me more than standing in front of a crowd and sharing some piece of myself. I knew, one day, I had to find a way to speak like that again.
In 2018, I finally worked up the courage to email my local Toastmasters group, I even told the person who had responded to my email that I would be there at the next meeting. I walked out to my car that June day, put my hand on the door handle, then promptly turned back to the house and went inside. I would attempt to leave for a meeting two more times before I finally got in the car and actually made it to a meeting.
When I walked in, I was greeted as if I was an old friend. I had never met anyone in the room and had exchanged barely a handful of emails with one of them, but, it didn't matter. We were all in that room for the same thing, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, we all wanted support and to support one another. We were all there to grow. I introduced myself at the start of the meeting along with the other guests and even participated in Table Topics (impromptu speaking 1-2 minutes). My official time for my Table Topics response - 26 seconds. It didn't matter though, I had done it! I had stood in front of a group of strangers and had spoken for 26 seconds. It was amazing! I felt alive and empowered. In fact, I still feel that way now after every speech.
Since that first meeting, I have given 19 speeches, once of which was 22 minutes long! I've also served as Vice President of Education and am currently the President (which means, among other duties, that I speak at every meeting!) I still get butterflies before every single speech but I welcome them. I once read somewhere that Bruce Springsteen gets butterflies before his shows and he welcomes them as a sign he's ready to go on stage.
When I stepped foot in that room for my first meeting, I was truly stepping into an unknown. I could not have predicted where my Toastmasters journey would take me. I host my own podcast now, have a live show through Virtual VegFest Live, and am a member of a live vegan talk show (for more info visit my Free Resources page). I give talks to groups and am able to share the things I love the most with those who resonate with it. For that, I am eternally grateful.
My journey as a Toastmaster is far from over, I can't wait to see where I go next.
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