I firmly believe that elocution competitions are the devil’s devious doing. Why you ask? Let’s just say that my experiences with public speaking have not ended well. Read on for more details.
While I was still a wee babe in school (OK OK… more like a bumbling pre-teen) I was compelled by well meaning parents and eager teachers to participate in a school elocution competition. Now bear in mind that public speaking has never been my forte. Knocking knees and whirring butterflies in the stomach were a standard accompaniment to any of my stage appearances. But I got carried away by the enthusiasm of those around me and eventually threw my proverbial hat in the ring.
There followed days of selecting and learning my piece, memorizing words and practicing inflections. I experimented with different tones of voice and varying emphases on the words. I drove my family bonkers with my repeated narrations and badgered them for feedback. I narrowed it down to a final favorite version and practiced my chosen piece to perfection for what seemed like an eternity.
The big day finally rolled around. As my name was called I walked onto the stage and took my place behind the microphone. The hall, chock full of buzzing students from the entire school, fell into an expectant hush as they waited for me to begin my piece. I eased into my routine and breezed through the first paragraph or so. All was well until I came to the second half of my piece.
For some unfathomable reason I just F.R.O.Z.E.
Try as I might I couldn’t seem to get past that block and remember what came next in my piece. I sputtered to an embarrassing halt and tried to re-start from the top. Once again, I got stuck at exactly the same point. There were some agonizing moments as I stood in silence at the mic not knowing what to do next. Eventually, a teacher who was standing backstage caught my eye and motioned for me to walk off the stage. God knows I’d probably still be standing there dumbstruck if it hadn’t been for her. I slouched off stage, defeated and humiliated.
I don’t remember any specifics of that incident. But I do remember clearly the feeling of abject mortification. I remember the eager, gleaming eyes of the judges seated in the front row. I remember stumbling back to my seat, refusing to make eye contact with those sitting around me. I remember their hushed whispers and stolen glances piercing my childhood soul like sharpened lances. I remember thinking that invisibility is a grossly underrated superpower. And I remember feeling that a merciful God would surely have let me die by now.
Suffice to say my prayers for an early release were not answered. God is kind of wise that way. I escaped that incident with nothing more than a severely bruised ego and a mental resolve to never, ever participate in another elocution competition for as long as I live.
So there you have it. One of my more embarrassing moments (and believe me, there are quite a few). Care to share any of your not-so-fond memories? 🙂