My First Time Speaking in Public
The enormous inflatable green and gray right hand with canary colored nails banged into my fellow high school students’ heads as I made my journey to the front of the room. It was a gargantuan prop from the small movie theater in town. I had to deflate it just to get it through the doorway.
Now, I was desperately seeking air…any air… to blow that thing back up — in front of all my classmates.
Somewhere in the process, I realized I’d made a horrible mistake.
That teaching a “How-to paint your nails” to a class of my peers was a lot harder than teaching it to the cat.
That teaching a audience of predominately male classmates how-to paint their nails with patterns and designs was not going to go over well.
That painting a giant plastic hand’s colossal fingernail with the tiny brush provided with the nail polish was a ridiculous proposition. Their blank stares proved it beyond any doubt.
The room went from a pleasant spring day to insanely hot deep fiery pit in hell.
I wanted to put anything between me and the audience. To shield myself. To hide.
My cheeks felt as if they were melting off my face.
My heart pounded. A bright metallic ringing filled my ears.
All semblance of spit dried up and perished in my mouth.
I tried to swallow back the panic.
I struggled to resist the building urge to bolt but now that the hand was inflated — there was no way I was getting through the door with it — and I had to return it.
My field of vision narrowed to a singular portal that focused on my friend sitting in the last row.
Thank God breathing is automatic because at that moment my thoughts had derailed.
One thought rose up above the tintamarre, “YOU NEED TO TALK NOW!”
I started talking.
My voice cracked.
My hands shook.
My heart hammered in my chest.
But, I kept talking.
I could feel the adrenaline surging like hitting the crest of a great wave right before it falls out from underneath you. The feeling of standing at the edge of a plane’s belly looking down thousands and thousands of feet — getting prepared to plunge headfirst into an abyss of clouds.
The feeling of pure possibility Pure joy.
At that moment, I was irrevocably hooked on public speaking.