Thud. Thud. Thud. That’s the sound of my heart beats rapidly as I stood there in front of thirty plus eyes looking at me. “Please give me a minute,” I said politely. “Take a deep breath” as a little voice in my head reminded me.
“Good evening Toastmaster members. Who am I? I’m a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a grandmother.” I saw a surprised look in the audience. “But I go by nana only,” with a big smile. At this time, my heart beats slowly got back to the regular rhythm. I continued, “I am a public servant and also a passionate writer. I’ve been writing for 18 years. It is like air to me. I started writing in Vietnamese for ten years then switch to English. I'm an author of this book, Finding My Voice.” As I proudly held the book up. ” Please allow me to take you to my humble beginning. I was born in 1970 during the Vietnam War. My first memory was running with my little brother to a helicopter. I was only five and he was a year younger. It was a chaotic scene ....”
I brought a note with me, but I didn’t look at it once. I told them at the beginning that I have a complicated and interesting life which can’t sum up in six minutes. Therefore, for those who are interested in this speech, please come back at the next meeting to hear the end of the story. Better yet, purchase my book for the full detail of my life as I lifted it up from the table in front of me.
I was still nervous for I didn’t move around where I was standing and looked at one side more than the other. I would feel a bit at ease if my coworkers were there as they said they would. Being new to the group made me feel a bit self-conscious.
Every new member of the club has to give an introductory speech. It was not easy to reveal your soul to the perfect strangers. As I spoke from my heart, I saw one member wiping her tears. That was when I got choked up, but I managed to deliver half of what I intended. As I came back to my seat, the president of the club whispered in my ears that it was a good speech.
The next speaker would be someone who was also a new member. I said to myself that I could win her easily. As the Toastmaster called her name, she shyly replied, “I am not ready.” “Oh no, I can’t win a ribbon if I had no competitor,” a voice whispered in my ear. Then the Toastmaster asked for a volunteer for an impromptu speech. One of the old members of 43 years volunteered. He’s a native born. I thought to myself this would be hard to win him!
We had an intermission for twenty minutes. Two of the members came and congratulated me on a work well done. They asked me for the signed copies which I promised to bring to the next meeting. My opponent also came to me and asked me how long it took me to write this book. I told him it took me about one year. He picked up the book and opened it. He asked about the chapter titled “The Voice.” I explained to him what it is for several minutes. He’s an older gentleman I believe he’s in his late seventieth or early eighty, but he has a sharp mind like the 30s. Thanks to this speaking club which keeps him well.
Toward the end of the meeting, all votes came in. As they called my name to the podium for the best speaker of the night, my heart was full of joy! I felt a bit emotional as I shook the toastmaster’s hand as I held the ribbon with him while others taking our photos.
I drove home with a ribbon in my purse. The first people I shared the news with was my Vietnamese writer group who is like a family to me. It feels good to have a supportive family. Thank You!
I'm going to write the conclusion to my speech and practice it until I memorize it. I want to deliver a powerful message to them. I want to tell them no matter what life throws at you, pick yourself up and hold your chin high. Don’t get discouraged if the road in front of you is blocked. Turn around and take a different road or clear it yourself if possible. Life is about overcoming obstacles. Without them, it would be a dull life.