I’d been secretly dreading this day for weeks, perhaps semesters, though it doesn’t truly hit you until 3am the night before the day of trepidation.
Public speaking is not exactly one of my natural dexterities. I can look at myself in the mirror for hours, training my facial expressions, choreographing hand gestures and perfecting my tone until all is smooth and ideal. I can be confident, collected, and completely convincing. I can do anything in front the mirror, because the only person I have to disappoint is myself. The only person who does or does not laugh at my strange humor is me, the only person who listens to the banter and finds it their will to accept it – me. I really can be invincible sometimes.
Suddenly I am pulled away from the placating mirror and hurled into a frightening classroom, fixated in utter panic at the front of a room of less-than-receptive spectators. A podium is all that shields me from the sting of their eyes, perhaps the only confine that is keeping me in the room. Four crinkled note cards are muddled from hand to hand and receive the bulk of my anxiety.
No deep breath can fix this.
I begin, but stop short once, twice, a hundred times. I reiterate in my mind, it’s all right, it’s okay, everything’s just fine. I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful. Everything’s fine. You can say these things. You can say them again, and again and again until the words are threadless and diminished by wear.
It doesn’t mean that you’ll believe them.
It would be nice to just let go and forget that anyone had opinions or judgements for those six minutes. Seeing an audience of plastic bodies would be all the more comforting than the breathing individuals that sat before me.
I wonder just what it is that frightens me so about these circumstances. In a school of nearly 8,000 students, what is it to me if 25 of them think I’m crazy? Simply 25 more people that think I’m crazy; no more, no less.
I can totally live with that.
PS: For lack of newer images, I am reposting old ones. Apologies for the shortage of contemporary.