On public speaking

In 8th grade English class, we were given the assignment to make a moment from a novel come alive. So I took advantage of the family video camera, harnessed my sister and my dad, and basic directing skills to re-enact a scene. Of course though, the toughest moment was giving the presenting as I stood in front of class.

“Speak louder” was always the dreaded directive from the teacher.

I would turn pink, trying my best to increase my volume. But I never quite achieved it. A combination of shyness and social anxiety kept me incredibly mute despite my creativity and desire to…express myself. I had no problem creating the presentation materials, no issues in creating exactly what I wanted to say, and most of all, not a single weary moment as I walked in front of the class. In fact, every single time, I was always excited.

But standing in front with all the eyes on me suddenly on me, I panicked and yearned to be back in my seat. And so it went for years. A call to be in front, to be seen, to be in the center of attention while crippled with the practicality of it all—the skills of performance and the connection to the audience.

There was once I used to wish that people didn’t listen, didn’t watch…while at the same time, I wanted them to listen and watch.

During high school, I opted out of giving a presentation for my final project. Instead, I walked up and said in a shy voice, “I made a video.” As I played it, I slumped at the podium, embarrassed about what I had created. My teacher told me, “No, look up, it’s your work.”

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