The first speech you give upon joining a Toastmasters club is called the Ice Breaker. It's a 4 to 6 minute speech about yourself. Now, that sounds easy enough, to talk about yourself for a few minutes, but you also have to make it an organized speech, with an introduction, middle, and conclusion, and an overarching theme/story line keeping the facts connected.
It's pretty hard to weave your life into a neat little package like that! It was finally during a conversation with Abe in which I commented how surprised I was that I hadn't had any kind of breakdown yet over the wedding combined with all the other new things I was trying, that I realized that there was a general correlation between my physical location and my openness to new experiences, that lent itself to a narrative.
From previous speaking experiences, I knew my biggest problem would be speaking too fast, followed closely by ahs and ums. Both remained true - plenty of ums, and when I practiced I only got to about 4:45, and somehow ended up at 6:33 for the actual speech! But was still told I spoke too fast. But was told that I did a really good job, and was even voted best speech of the day (out of 3)! I was especially glad to hear that my humor noticed - I know I think I'm funny, so it's nice to know that other people think so too. :)
(Below is my speech as prepared to present, with a few details altered/omitted for internet privacy.)
Title: Exploring Larger Limits
I grew up in a small town in the southeast corner of Washington state. It’s a fairly small town - though surrounded by even smaller towns. The nearest “big city” is Spokane, a few hours away. I knew I didn’t want to stay there forever, but was quite content in its small boundaries while I was there.
I left to go to college in Oregon. It seemed like a good distance from my parents - not too close, not too far. I also liked that it was *near* Portland. I can’t say I took much of advantage of it yet, though. Adjusting to college, making new friends, deciding what to do with my life, was enough outside my comfort zone. I’ve always been introverted and a bit of homebody, so dealing with more unknown, even to explore a fun new city, wasn’t at the top of my list.
My major was accounting, and after graduating went to work at a local CPA firm. Though I enjoyed my job, it definitely has a steep learning curve when you start. One of my coping mechanisms, though, was concentrating on the CPA exam - I’d always been a good student, and so studying for this was a familiar pasttime. By January after graduation I had taken all four sections.
Around that time my roommate was moving, so I decided to live closer to work. By then work was my safe spot. I was starting to get the hang of things there, but a bit lost elsewhere. I no longer had classes or the exam studying to focus on. I started losing touch with friends from high school and college, and found it hard to develop new friendships as an adult.
Eventually, though,I reconnected with a more social college friend, and met friends of her, including joining a bowling team.I felt pretty adventurous with the bowling team, in part because it was in *Portland* Portland, and so I had to drive “in the city”. At least one time I got lost trying to get out of the parking lot.
It was also an adventure, meeting new people, and ended up dating a guy from the team. After a fairly short time, we got engaged, but it ended almost as quickly. We realized we were both settling for something that wasn’t good enough, not wanting to risk not finding anyone at all.
After the breakup, I increased running, which had been a casual hobby, and trained for my first half marathon. This required me to explore new roads and areas, as I increased my long runs. I even made friends on my own - not through existing friends - by chatting at races.
I was able to branch out in other ways too. Not sure if running a half marathon gave me the confidence, but it did give me a conversation starter, when I was on an online dating site, and messaging with Abe. We went on our first date, and things went well from there. By last this past fall we knew this was a good thing; the wedding is on Sunday.
Wedding planning certainly has the potential to be stressful - both the entering a new stage of life/relationship, and planning the largest event of your life, and although I’ve had a couple moments of frustration, I’m rather surprised I haven’t had a meltdown of anxiety yet.
Not only because of the wedding, though - in the past several months, I’ve been trying a ridiculous number of new things.
I’ve joined a triathlon group, re-learning how to swim and bike, after not doing either since I was a kid. I’m finally to the point on bike rides that I’m not *convinced* I’m going to crash and die - it’s just a strong possibility.
Abe and I moved to an area closer to downtown, which puts us on the MAX line. You can imagine that my hometown didn’t have public transportation. So using it can be a bit nerve wracking for me, but I’ve even been riding the MAX, exploring new parts of town and enjoying how close and convenient to so many parts of Portland are.
And joining Toastmasters. This is way outside my comfort zone. Which, of course, is the whole reason for doing it, to more easily open up, speak, connect. It’s just one more change and new habit I’m trying to form, out of many.
I’ve gone through many times in life with fewer, or less significant, changes, and not coped at all. But over time as I learn to appreciate the novel experiences and exploring the unknown, a meltdown seems less and less likely to be forthcoming.