There I Stood
April 1st, 2001. It was on this day that a young girl descended the steps of a Boeing 747 aircraft and stepped foot into the United States of America. Timid, apprehensive, and intimidated, this girl had to swiftly assimilate into a new culture by becoming fluent in the American accented English of her peers at school. Fast forward to 2010, and that young inhibited girl has metamorphosed into a very confident me.
Upon my arrival in America, I was so awed by words emanating from the television that I would sit one foot from the screen to soak in the fluency of the language. Each time I listened to the anchors speak so crisply, I was influenced to enter this pulsating world as a journalist. My parents wondered how their diffident daughter would speak on TV if she could not even speak confidently in front of people. I did not know but I refused to relent, so in August 2007, I officially joined the Speech and Debate team at my high school to explore my options.
I joined Original Oratory, a speech event in which I would write an original oratory, no two guesses there. Once I chose a topic, I began writing a speech, something which liberated my thoughts completely. I was thrilled. Granted that what I had to say about our culture’s fascination with stereotyping was not exactly akin to my cousin’s PhD thesis, but, nevertheless, I was calmed by the writing process. Before I could rehearse my speech ten times in front of the mirror, glancing at my face but all too often, pointing out my facial flaws, instead of focusing on my expressions, the date for my first ever public speaking competition neared. At that unearthly hour of 6 am on a Saturday morning, I awoke to squeeze in what would be my last rehearsal before the physically draining day ahead. During the tournament, I recall that my hands were beaded with perspiration and my feet cocooned by warmth and tension.
Each and every time I presented my speech, I gained an ounce of confidence in myself. Wrapping up the day after five rounds of speeches, I waited with baited breath at the site of the awards ceremony, the high school cafeteria, to learn my fate. However, I soon realized that this was one of those alphabetically organized events, and I knew where the O in Original Oratory factored in that list of twenty-six letters, precisely eleven spots from the finale. Nevertheless, I applauded everyone and anticipated the sound of that elusive letter. When it did ring, I was caught off-guard, even more so when the individual announced an unfamiliar name as the winner in my division. I blinked only to realize that he was calling me. In my frenzy, I bolted out of my seat and pranced up to collect the award, a giant silver platter with the inscribed event name. I was madly exhilarated. One victory at a time building up to the twentieth, both at the regional and state levels, shaped me into the confident person I have become. There I stood triumphantly on the brightly lit stage at the Anaheim Convention Center in California representing Georgia in the Future Business Leaders of America conference as a 2009 top ten national finalist in Public Speaking.
In hindsight, public speaking has afforded me the ability to handle demanding situations with considerable confidence, which, coupled with my analysis skills learnt from the speech crafting process, would enable me to flourish in and adapt to a rigorous four years in college.