One day, at dinner, my Dad announced he’d been given a great opportunity, an assignment to work overseas for two years. We were moving!
I Was Only 13
At the time I was a teenager, going to the high school and very happy with my life in a small New Hampshire town. I had friends and a huge extended family with tons of cousins. I didn’t know how to speak Japanese, nor ever been on a plane! This wasn’t something I was ready for. Looking back, you’re never ready for this type of change, but you have to jump and have faith. I had faith in my Mom & Dad, that they knew what we were about to embark on.
My sisters and I were enrolled in an International School, St. Maur’s. I went from a public, co-ed school to a private, all girl, Catholic school wearing the dreaded uniform-12 time zones away. My 8th grade class had only 15 other students. This was the entire 8th grade; all wearing navy blue jumpers.
One of the classes we had to attend was called Speech. It was not like the public speaking I do today. It was more of an etiquette class, how to sit, speak politely and answer questions in an interview. The teacher would have us do various exercises in small groups and in front of the class…….all 16 of us.
One day, when were leaving class, the teacher pulled me aside and said, “The school’s hosting a speech competition. I think you should do it.”
“OK,” was my reply. At 13, you just do what teacher asks you do. Not being a confident girl, never making eye contact with others or speaking up; I just wanted to go unnoticed. I’d never given a speech, or been in any kind of contest or competition before. I had NO idea what I had gotten myself into, but there was no backing out now. I was doing this. I was committed.
For weeks, I prepped; practiced, etc. I did all the things I thought I should do. (Obviously, I was paying attention in speech class and learning a few things.)
The day came for the contest. I was to be presenting in the library. The seats were filled and half of the audience was standing. Everyone was ready to listen to me and the other competitors. I was called and it was time to stand up, in front of the crowd of at least 75 students, teachers and nuns. It was show time and I had to control the nervous butterflies in my stomach. I focused, got up there and stood tall. Holding my portfolio in the left hand, off to the side to glance at from time to time, I began.
At one point, I forgot my next line….glanced at my portfolio……but couldn’t find my place…….. YIKES! I looked at the audience, added a quick remark, that seem to fit in nicely, giving me the few seconds I needed. I found my place again and continued. At the end, the audience applauded and my part was done. I did it!
The entire school was gathered in the auditorium, to announce the winners. The results were in, and I had won FIRST Place! I was so excited and proud as I walked up onto the stage to receive my plaque.
The Gift of Confidence
Looking back, my teacher, from so long ago, saw something in me, that I had not seen in myself. She gave me the confidence to enter that contest because she believed in me. Knocking it out of the park, on my first public speech, has given me the confidence to stand up in front of people, as a speaker, trainer or when I deliver a keynote address………. I’m doing what I love, all because of a teacher putting the spotlight on one of my hidden skills.