In order to graduate from university, I was required to take “Public Speaking 101.” I put it off as long as I could as I was not AT ALL keen on taking the course. I decided that I would complete the requirement during summer school at a community college, as that would likely mean a small class size, thus, a smaller audience I had to speak in front of.
I took Public Speaking 101 at Mesa Community College in the summer of 2003. My class size was roughly 17 students. I remember the professor as if it were yesterday. He gave us all the pointers as to what a “good” public speaker was; someone who wasn’t fidgety, someone who didn’t say “um” every other sentence, a speaker who stayed on track and didn’t wander off onto other topics, etc.
We all had our turn at different types of public speaking for different “tests” that we had to pass. The first few weren’t too bad as they were somewhat brief. However, the last one, the final, was a bit different.
We were to pick a topic, research it, and then create a speech centered around the topic. We were allowed to have note cards, but we were not allowed to write our speech down verbatim. It had to be an actual “discussion,” if you will.
My experience was SO awful, I honestly don’t remember what I chose for my topic; I couldn’t tell you if my life depended on it. However, I can tell you, clear as day, how that day unfolded.
I woke up that morning and set up my ironing board in front of my mirrored-closet door and used it as a podium to practice my speech. I made sure I looked professional; that was part of public speaking, too! You couldn’t look like a hussy while you were speaking as it would distract the audience from your message.
So, equipped in my ridiculous version of Charlotte Russe’s “professional” attire, I started practicing in front of my mirror. Problem was, the more I practiced, the more nervous I became.
At first, I noticed that I was blinking a lot, so I became overly aware of my blinking. Have you ever stopped and thought about breathing? As in, focused so much on your breathing that you’ve actually freaked yourself out? It was just like that. I couldn’t stop blinking.
Next up was my mouth. I’d never noticed how my mouth looked when I spoke. I couldn’t stop looking at my mouth and how crooked it looked when I spoke. I couldn’t stop thinking about that, and mainly, the fact that no one ever told me how crooked my mouth sat on my face.
Then, my shoes. They were cheap, high-hussy heels from, probably Charlotte Russe, or Wet Seal, and they were so high, I was in an involuntary stance similar to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I was the “Leaning Nervous Tower of Smasha.”
I went and changed into a more desirable pair of shoes and decided to give the speech another go. I turned the air conditioning down to it’s lowest temperature in my apartment because I was dripping with nervous sweat, and I started from scratch.
I got out the first few sentences and realized my hands were shaking. Just then, a thought popped in my brain!
During my senior year of high school (and throughout my life, actually), I suffered from anxiety attacks. I had no idea what they were, and I literally thought I was dying from a heart attack. My doctor had given me these “anxiety pills” in high school and they worked like a damn CHARM.
I went digging through my medicine cabinet and found my expired prescription and popped two of those puppies. I went and sat on my classy college futon and decided to relax for a while before my speech. I knew the anxiety pills would surely take the edge off, and I’d be able to have at it again.
Sure enough, within ten minutes, I was feeling much better. I got up and went to my mirror and gave my speech another go, and totally nailed it! I was raring and ready to go!
I got in my car and headed the short drive to Mesa Community College, parked my car, and went to class. I sat down next to my friend that I’d met in class that summer and was brimming with pride.
As the remainder of the class stumbled in and the professor took the podium to go over how the speech process would work, I remember this feeling of intense state of “relax-ness” taking over my entire body.
And then I started to panic.
“OH MY GOD! I FEEL SO WEIRD!”
“MY FACE! I CAN’T FEEL MY FACE!!!”
Quickly, I realized that taking two anxiety pills was, likely, not the brightest idea on the planet. All I could focus on was how weird I felt, how weird the pills were making me feel, AND THAT I HAD TO GIVE A SPEECH ANY SECOND.
Sure enough, as my awesome luck would have it, my professor decided to have the speeches preformed by each student in…wait for it… alphabetical order.
I got up in front of my small class, the world spinning beneath my feet—in the worst way possible, and I muttered off some long-winded, slurred, sentence.
My instructor gave me a look as to say “Are you okay?”
I avoided eye-contact and talked as fast as I could possibly could, which, was about as fast as turtle sprinting a half-marathon, and then nearly crawled back to my seat as sweat started seeping through my $18.00 Charlotte Russe tight-as-all-hell blazer.
That was my last day of Public Speaking 101. Thank God. I can’t even tell you what grade I got on the test, but I can tell you that I passed the class with a B.
So, word to the wise: Don’t take expired medication, NEVER take two anxiety pills of any kind before a speech if you don’t take them on a regular basis, and lastly, never, ever, buy a blazer at Charlotte Russe with a very tight fit because it’s “cute.” Comfort trumps cute during all public speaking adventures…every time.
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