I have always felt something freeing about having a blank pad of paper and a smooth writing pen. I am free to write whatever I want, however I want, wherever I want. No matter how much I improve on my public speaking, I will always find comfort expressing myself through the written word.
Awhile ago, a Toastmaster approached me and asked me to write a story about personal change. Ideally the topic should have been easy: I am in Toastmasters after all, I could have written about all my changes in the past five years and called it a day. But a challenge was put forth: could I write about a change that everyone could relate to, not just the Toastmasters’ audience. I think so…but how on earth would I start? Where would I start?
Sometimes, what another person tells you is the one thing you need to hear. Suddenly, I had my idea and I started to write. The clunky words and rewrites became smoother over time. I became more confident with my words. Most importantly, at some point I decided “screw it” and started writing about how I felt, what I felt, a story I had never really shared with anyone, but something possessed me to want to share it there and now.
When I was done and hit the save button for the last time, I quickly reread my own words and sent it off without a second thought. Less than an hour later, my inbox pinged with a reply from said Toastmaster.
I had made him cry.
Really? I had written a story about how I had changed, but I never expected that kind of a response. Half curious, I opened up the story I had just written and reread my own words.
With his inspiration, I thought I was writing a story about how I had felt at one point in my life. But as I reread my own words, I almost made myself cry. Everything suddenly sounded so real, so raw, it contained almost everything I had been afraid to say out loud and on most days I try to push it out of my mind and continue about my life as normal.
Somewhere out there amongst my self-doubt that tells me my story contains nothing but “first world problems”, I think I’m learning a little more about being vulnerable, about being real to an audience. To me, it’s about having the strength to let yourself go through all the emotions of the moment. To me it’s about being brave enough to relive those said moments. And most important of all, to me it’s the quiet and understated acknowledgement of “this is who I am.”
I honestly have no clue how well my story relates to an audience in general, but I would like to think it does someway somehow. It’s a story that is still ongoing in my life. I don’t think it will have the instant happy ending that leaves us all feeling satisfied and heading out to get ice cream to celebrate. But it’s my story. And to me it’s probably one of the realest stories I have ever written.
And thanks to Philip Philips’s song lyrics, I think the best way I can describe this new vulnerable yet empowering feeling:
“Hold on to what makes you feel, don’t let go it’s what makes you real.”