I am a member of ToastmastersInternational, a worldwide collection of small clubs where people learn public speaking. When all the clubs in the area send contestants to a contest, sometimes I go watch.
I try not to feel dumb or vulnerable whenever I attend a toastmasters contest, in some strange building, among big grownups, among rich impressive strangers. I can only try… while maybe I am late or had been lost or am having a bad hair day or have mustard on my always-knotted tie…
Recently I arrived early. In the forum outside the contest room I did some happy stressful socializing with strangers, then I escaped to sit inside, amidst rows of folding chairs, waiting for the events to start. There I was, silently enjoying the ambience, like being in a youthful nightclub that’s too boringly loud to talk, yet still enjoyable—at least for others. I thought I could at least pretend to enjoy the ambiance. I was joined by two ladies from my club. We talked a little bit, as we patiently waited for the start of the events. But abruptly the ambience was broken: Suddenly they began speaking to each other in a foreign language. They talked and talked.
It was, once again, the cold story of my life: being alone, with no one I can count on.
At first I was sitting with my leg crossed towards the lady beside me. Feeling lonely and betrayed, I re-crossed my legs, away this time, and even slightly angled my body away, and glanced at the contest program again. My heart pulled away from the evening; I pulled out my pen and started jotting notes on the program, planning my next speech. Making notes for the future felt productive: Not like merely sitting as a hard lump in the no-longer-nice ambience.
…Because I try to think positive, I am hoping that for the next contest I will have enough courage to sit beside them again.