I have never thought of myself as much of a public speaker, so when a dear family friend from my childhood asked me to be a guest speaker for her Life Management class at a local high school, I was nervous at best.
I instantly had flashbacks to my high school days. My clammy hands, standing in speech class trembling like a crisp fall leaf, praying for the fire alarm to sound and grant me perhaps ten more minutes to find a bathroom stall to hide in. Once I did start speaking, regardless how eloquently my words were written, my voice was shaky at best, and my stomach did cartwheels until I felt like my lunch was about to resurface. I spoke at what seemed to be 2000 words per minute in an effort to get it over with as quickly as humanly possible so my peers would stop staring at me, critiquing me and judging me. I hated public speaking.
So of course, at first I was nervous to say the least. But something in my heart seemed to compell me to say yes. So I did.
I spent the next few weeks with this nerve wrecking feeling in the back of my mind and the pit of my stomach, the same old insecurities that were all too familiar creeping back in. I felt so honored to have been asked, but completely unqualified.
I spent my entire day today stressing, spending hours going over the words I had written that began to look jumbled together and no longer make any sense. I prayed. I prayed hard. I felt this urge that there was a special reason behind this, that I needed to press through and be strong because I was SUPPOSED to do it this.
The entire way to the school, I felt like throwing up. I kept panicking my iPad would crash and I would lose all my notes. As we drove into the parking lot, I felt this wave of panic. My mind was racing “I am going to mess up, I just know it. I’m no public speaker, and I am going to mess up.”
Victory Christian Academy was bustling with students darting in and out of doorways and weaving through the hallways. Most of the students were quiet, focus on their faces as they headed off to their final class of the day. Some were loud, their voices carrying through the hallways over all the others. I smile to myself as I remember my first years of high school, and how it seems the whole world is what’s right in front of you, when in fact it is only the tiniest glimpse of your existence.
Purple and gold are everywhere. Art projects line the main hall, I stop for a split second to admire it. A table of colorful paper mâché arms emerge from their bases, the hands grasping at the air in strange contorted ways; they remind me of my little sisters, who are both artists, and feel a little bit more at ease.
I walk through a set of double doors, and I see my dear friend Ms. Lynne waiting for me, and a wave of relief comes over me. I knew her my entire life, and she is also a comfort to me, even more so than I had realized until that moment. She ushers me into her classroom, and I see a room full of students, staring at me quizzically, weighing and measuring me, and making up their minds about me.
Some of them we’re fully engaged, smiling, with a twinkle in their eyes. Some of them seemed to already have their minds on the bell just 50 minutes away from ringing and freeing them for the rest of the day. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but I still felt strangly calm. I was waiting for those same old feelings of panic to take over, but I was surprisingly just fine.
And then my mouth opened, and all the passion and pain and gratitude my story makes me feel began to pour out, sweetly and calmly and with a cool confidence I never knew I had. Those same words I practiced earlier and stumbled over, were clear and precise and natural. My voice was strong, like I was just having a conversation, not a speech. As I stood behind the podium, and looked in their faces, bright and impressionable and innocent, the same kind of seats I sat in just a few years ago, I felt my heart reaching out to them, I felt like this was the place I was supposed to be. I felt at home.
It’s funny how when we are going through a situation, we constantly wonder how things will ever get better. We wonder how we will survive, but sometimes what we overcome, leads us into what we were born to do.
I can’t tell you how amazing it feels, to think that some of the trials I have conquered could help someone else, that maybe I can make a mark on the world. Maybe I really can make a difference, maybe, just maybe, I already have.