Speaking Madness

23 Apr

I am not a speaker. I don’t want to speak. In 6th grade and Jr. High School a few oral reports had to be done. The first I did was in 6th grade about a place in Africa. I think I took too many notes, because it was long. It was likely 10 minutes instead of 3, how do you summarize a place in another country? I got a C for my thorough report. I was mysteriously ill for the next several reports assigned, you don’t have to have a fever to be sick. It must have been something I ate, that invisible, unidentified something I had between going to sleep and waking up. Those illnesses lasted half the day. No one goes to school when it’s more than half over.

My next report was for my Advanced Reading class. Why did I agree to be advanced? That class split us into groups nearly all the time. I despised groups. I thought advanced study students should have more independent activities. If I had the friends (they were more like pals) I had in high school at that time, then grouping up 90% of the time wouldn’t have annoyed me. I hated book reports. I love books, but why do I have to remember it all, including the title and author, the book was good while it lasted… probably. Making me select a book, assigning me to then read it, and then do a report.. all very bad ideas. I didn’t read the book because I felt chained to it. I felt the mysterious fake illness coming on, but I had perfect attendance. You can’t mess up perfect attendance, it’s just wrong. I read the first 3 pages and last 5 pages of the book. Beginning, ending.. who cares about all the stuff in between anyway? It seemed like it would have been an interesting book, it reminded me of an episode of “I Love Lucy”. I went to every class that day.. probably, but I know I went to Advanced Reading. I didn’t have perfect attendance in every class. I was known to be a period or 2 late several times a week. I gave an oral book report on a book I never actually read. I got a C, I was proud of my C, I felt like a genius. Speaking assignments and I didn’t get along. They give kids too much stress and should be illegal until college.

Some things aren’t assigned, some things can only be attributed to madness. I accept speaking jobs when no one else wants to. Why do I do that? Speaking freaked me out just as much as any average person, but I feel somehow better equipped for stress. I feel like speaking makes me only slightly stressier than usual. Is stressier a word? Well, too bad. Me to the rescue because SOMEONE has to do it. I’m either a someone or a space alien. I think I’d rather be the space alien. No one volunteered to be the captain of our school spelling bee team so I raised my hand. I hadn’t even received the list of words to study, but our team had to agree on the spelling and I had to stand up and spell it. I love words, what could possibly go wrong? Did I forget the final decision when the team can’t make up their minds? Of course I did. Oh well, I had nothing to lose. No, seriously, no reputation and just 1 friend when I had interest in none. The next speaking engagement I recall was.. what’s that word? The speaker at graduation.. starts with a V.. I know how to say it, but how do you spell it? Most words I guess the spelling of turn out right, but I won’t risk that one. And no I will not look it up, sounds like homework. I love school, by the way. Anyway, I was the V word at my high school graduation. I had to come up with a speech and everything. Not too hard when no assignment is involved. I love writing things. I picked up a book from the library “Complete Idiot’s Guide”, the one about speaking in public. That book put my mind at ease. It really didn’t, but I felt better about the extreme anxiety threatening to flood my system. Yet, I feel like I am a professional at ignoring stress. The book gave me one new thought that I’ve never forgotten. My anxiety was really just excitement. I took my overwhelming, impending doom type of excitement and went to my graduation, speech in hand. My only friend also won the scholarship and would speak. It would be split between us, blame that on stupid judges that can’t make up their minds. We lined up in our graduation gowns. I was afraid my friend would crumble into a pile of nerves any second. I put my doomsday excitement aside and tried to calm her down. I told her it would be ok. In my head I was hoping she’d be called to speak first, it was nothing personal. I wasn’t trying to get out of it, I’d made up my mind: do or pass out. “Do or die” is too harsh a selection, don’t you think? Just my luck, I was called first. Oh well, I thought at least she could use my example to calm down. There may have been something in that book about imagining people in their underwear, but I had no desire to see people’s underwear. I started with a silence, then a stutter, but had a decent pace going within 10 seconds.. ok, maybe 15. That was my fault for imagining my mind wouldn’t go blank if I said my speech from memory and looked at people. It’s a good thing I wrote it down. I didn’t try looking at people anymore, viewed my notes when needed, but looked ahead which gave the illusion of looking at people. I didn’t get that from a book, I do what works. With kneebuckling anxiety, appearing indifferent actually comes in handy. No one can tell, how did I know I’m suited to manage things? I’m asking, because I don’t know. I was anxious all day, everyday and everyone thought I didn’t care about anything. When bullies tested me, they couldn’t read my reaction and left me alone. I wouldn’t back down, but shook in my internal boots. Based on the evidence of being left alone I’ll say that I must have appeared fearless and indifferent. I don’t know what madness this is, but it causes blindness in people around me. I swear, how could they not see the ball of nerves before them? I’ve got stage fright and people looking at me fright.. those are probably the same thing. I wished that my one super power could be invisibility, but I put myself out there when no one else will. It has to be madness…

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