Toastmasters Take 2
I woke up this morning feeling pretty confident and excited for my Toastmaster’s meeting. I put on a nice outfit (translation: jeans instead of sweats), spent a little time on my hair and makeup, and drove off to my 8am meeting. I was not on the agenda to speak today but I knew that I would still have to talk at some point, which I was okay with. Until I had to talk. And then things went from bad to worse.
Every meeting includes a “Table Topics” portion when the Table Topics Master gets up and stimulates discussion by asking fellow Toastmasters to chime in for 1-2 minutes on the Master’s question. I am not such a terrible speaker when I have to give a speech I’ve planned and agonized over, but ask me a random question, and a difficult one at that, and I just can’t pull it together. Today was no exception.
This morning I made the grave error of making eye contact with the Table Topics Master, at which point she asked me the following question: “Do you think that one has to overcome an obstacle to truly understand suffering?” Despite nearly keeling over from anxiety, I managed to stand up to answer the question. I told myself to take it slow by using a few seconds to organize my thoughts. And I really tried! But with dozens of people staring at me waiting for me to start, I felt obligated to move forward and say something.
I did say something. I said a lot of things, actually. But the stuff that came out of my mouth? Idiotic at best. I think I mentioned something about how one doesn’t need to experience hardship to understand suffering…but honestly, I have no idea what I said. The only thing I clearly remember saying was, “A minute is a really long time.”
At that point I just wanted to give up. Why was I torturing myself? I figured that some people are just better at certain things and would it be a tragedy if I dedicated myself to Excel spreadsheets for the rest of my life? But then a few things happened that made me reconsider becoming a Toastmaster’s dropout:
1. At the end of the meeting several people came up to me and told me that they too struggled and/or continue to struggle with Table Topics. I’m not sure if I believe them, but the fact that strangers tried to make me feel better made all the difference in the world.
2. The Table Topics Master had to leave a little bit early, but before she did, she dropped this note into my lap (click to enlarge):
How nice is that? For someone I barely know to write such a kind note? I was really very touched.
3. My brother pointed out that I was attending Toastmasters to learn how to speak and think on my feet. If I was already good at that, I probably wouldn’t be in the class. Obvious? Yes. Did I need to hear it? Yes.
Due to Good Friday there is no meeting next Friday. That gives me two weeks to get my s@#$ together. And while I don’t think a lifetime is enough time for me to do that, I’m hoping that by the next meeting I will at least be able to say something coherent. Is that too much to ask?