Thursday, November 14, 2013

Feeling Left Out

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.

Sean Crawford
Calgary Canada


  1. Stressful socializing? Take a chance and be yourself. Pull out the funny card. A good ice-breaker might be that roses are red/bacon poem that I posted? Ha ha......
    How was the next contest?

  2. On an average day I am not vulnerable and I socialize just fine, as myself. The next contest was fine.

    At work I have learned to solve problems, not let them continue. Well, one of the ladies acted excluding again at a home meeting so I said, as we milled around after the meeting, "We need to talk as soon as your husband can join us." That was so he could be supportive of her. Then I said that a foreign language is OK out in the dark (where I expect to be cold and lonely) but inside under the warm (friendly) light, if Madam X speaks to you in your other language please reply to her in English so she doesn't hook you into a long conversation." It's been good so far.

    At our home contests I am often asked to be the chief judge, so that is a nice honour.

    Speaking of socializing and life in general, in Alan Alda's second best seller, (I forget the title, I gave it to a hospital charity store last week) he said that as a typical actor he naturally wanted to focus on being the center of attention, but he has learned that focus on being helpful is better, and you still get attention. I have learned that too.

  3. "Focus on being helpful" - well said Alan Alda and good point Sean Crawford.