On the 16th of July 2013, I stood here to deliver my very first speech titled ‘Unlucky 13 and rediscovering the meaning of life’. As I walked towards the lectern, I could feel my palms becoming sweaty, knees getting weak and my arms heavy. My opening line was….
This has by far been the worst year of my life and hopefully, ever.
When my 6 minutes were up, I thanked the audience and walked back to my seat accompanied by a rousing applause. It felt good.
As I walked back to my seat I started thinking about the reasons I had decided to join toastmasters. I was truly having the worst year of my life and I needed an audience to share my pain. Writing about my pain felt like the only thing I could do at the time. My life was falling into pieces. I had no place to stay, no sense of direction; I watched as the life I had known for a decade went up in flames. I was completely lost. Life was finally having its way with me. My joy ride was over.
Coming to Toastmasters reinvigorated my life. It gave me a second chance; a renewed sense of purpose. Here I was surrounded by strangers who wanted me to succeed; Win or lose these people, these strangers were prepared to applaud and say well done for trying. Well done for having the courage to get up and speak.
Over the following two years I was to watch as the building blocks of my own life started to take shape. Like the phoenix, my new life arose from where my previous one had burnt to ashes.
I watched as my life started to magically transform. I suddenly had a spring in my step. Memories of the life I had lead started to fade into the distant horizon. As I delivered my second and third speeches, I could feel a new me emerging from within. I could feel my potential taking on a new form. I was asked to repeat my CC2 and my CC4. But this didn’t detract me from my goal, my goal was never to get to CC10, I had a bigger goal, that goal was to rebuild my life, one brick at a time, to rediscover the meaning of life, to regain a sense of purpose.
When I delivered my CC4, keeping up with the Kenyans, I had spent two months at home recovering from a double-knee surgery. In all that time I kept wondering if I was ever going to run. Through the power of imagination, I saw myself in the Great Rift Valley of Kenya, running amongst the greatest marathon runners in the world. Little did I know that it was going take two more years, one more operation and endless rehabilitation before I could run again. Today when I run I think back to those days when I couldn’t move my legs and yet I couldn’t stop my mind from running. And whenever I was in doubt, I would go to Toastmasters and listen to inspirational stories from fellow toastmasters.
By the time my CC5 came along, my life was firmly back on track, I felt happy, I had rediscovered my inner child. I decided during that time that I was going to watch all the Superhero movies ever made. I needed to feed my inner child. Spider Man, Batman, Superman. I had so much energy I was bouncing off walls, I felt invincible like the protector of Gotham City. I felt like I could stop a moving train with my bare hands. I started to believe I could fly. Toastmasters was having its way with me and I was loving every moment.
I came here looking for an audience to listen to my story. It was never about learning how to speak to an audience. Little did I know when I signed up that by the time Ralph Smedley was done with me I would be able to walk tall with my head held high like it was hanging on pieces of string. I didn’t know that I was going to learn how to balance confidence with humility, compassion and restraint.
When I came here my life was falling to pieces. Through this journey I have learnt great lessons, I have formed amazing friendships, and have had the most inspired conversations. In the process I have grown in ways that I could never have imagined. Every journey begins with a single speech. Toastmasters saved my life. It gave me a renewed sense of purpose. It reminded me of the beauty of life. Through this programme, I learnt how to soar to new heights. Now I believe I can fly. So the year is 2015, and this has been by far the best year of my life. My palms are still sweaty, knees weak and arms heavy, but now I believe I can touch the sky.