Monday, I was pleasantly surprised when my boyfriend’s younger sister asked me to be a guest speaker in her public speaking class. Not that I am so public-speaking inclined, it was mostly because my boyfriend told her “no.” No matter the reason, I was flattered and agreed without hesitation. So, tomorrow, well later today, I am going back to my high school, getting “back to where [I] once belonged,” as put by the Beatles, to speak. About what? I don’t know yet.
My whole life I’ve been labeled “talkative.” In elementary school, even some middle school, classes, I got in trouble for talking constantly. Many a report card I brought home with a “talks too much in class” in the teacher’s notes section. A family friend called me “blabbermouth,” a nickname which caught on and stuck in my immediate family. My communication skills are on-point to say the least. I have no problems talking to people, which is why I thought it would be no big deal to speak in front of a class of 20+ high school students for 45 minutes to an hour about anything I want. Upon further reflection, I’ve found that this is a bigger deal than I originally thought. Not many people have the chance to share what they’ve learned, their wisdom, with others, especially when those others have no choice but to listen. Not to say that I have wisdom worth sharing or that if I did it would be organized into anything nearly coherent. It wouldn’t and I don’t as of yet. My goal in my “speech” will be to make it relevant to majority of the students.
The extent of direction I was given on what to talk about tomorrow was to tell them about my “college experience.” What if half the kids in that class don’t plan to proceed with their educations after high school? What if they are unsure? If I’m going to talk to a group of people, I want what I’m saying to at least be somewhat relevant to them. Maybe it won’t exactly resonate with every single one of them, or maybe I’ll find that six students are sleeping the whole time, but I want to try to make my time there something the students will be able to listen to without following the hands around the face of the clock.
I’m definitely more worried about what kind of impact I make tomorrow more than the actual task of presenting in front of people. Although I may not dread speaking to a group of people, I’m not exempted from the usual fears of public speaking shared by most. I think I may just have a greater talent for harnessing that anxiety and guiding it into something of a more constructive nature. Anyway, I’m sure that I’m overestimating the importance of tomorrow’s “speech” and over-thinking things. Those kids are just tying to get through another day of high school and I’m coming back for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be heard by a group of kids who may or may not have their lives figured out. I have the power to influence them, but I don’t think I will. I don’t plan to campaign for a college education, or for Virginia Tech, or for working on a newspaper, or for majoring in finance or communications, but I am going to tell them about those things and hopefully, what I come up with tomorrow is useful to someone in that room.