(Guest post by Rachel Firestone, her speech to toastmasters on how the longest journey is the one where you never take the first step)
Mr/Mme Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and honored guests, I will be talking about my journey from my head to my feet. You must all be wondering, what is she going to be talking about? Great title, eh? Well now that I’ve got your attention, it’s all about a realization I had about 6 months ago which has been the most instrumental moment in my life; it that has led me to where I stand today. Scared, in front of some friends, some strangers, baring it all and hoping I won’t be judge to harshly.
Let me set the context. Please bare with me, I am not a cynic, and I am not a pessimist, there is a beautiful silver lining at the end of the story.
From the time I was conceived, I have always been told that I was special. My parents probably are the biggest offenders, but everyone plays their part; my guidance counsellors, teachers, grandparents, and family friends. I know that their intentions were well meaning, but every action has a reaction. It doesn’t just pertain to me, the majority of my generation has been told this as well.
There has been a plethora of articles written about my generation. The keywords being “entitled” “spoiled” “lazy” and “unhappy”. Why are we unhappy? Why are we entitled? Because we all think that we are special. This word has been ingrained into our subconscious since we were children. We are entitled, because we are special, and we believe the whole universe will conspire to fill our lives with greatness, with very little or no effort on our part. We have grown up with these unrealistic dreams, expectations, thoughts, about how our lives should play out – which all steam from thinking we are different. The truth is, we aren’t different, we are all the same, and there is only a small percentage of people that exist that are, actually, special.
Throughout my life, there has always been one common thread, it would appear on every report card, every progress report, it would manifest itself in different ways, but it was always a very clear, and obvious theme. “Rachel would succeed more if she put in more effort.” “She’s a very intelligent girl, but she doesn’t try.” “If Rachel read more of her text books, she would do much better.” In one sentence my life has been predicted, that of someone who has a massive fear of failure. I would never try, so when I did fail, I could say at least I didn’t try. No detrimental effects to my ego; my confidence has remained unharmed. I spent the first quarter century of my life being average; Waiting for life to hand me my golden egg. Happy with being complacent – waiting for the good things to happen, entitled because I thought the world owed me something.
However, I can tell you, that I wasn’t that happy. When I reflect on my life, I have been constantly unhappy. Not depressed, just mildly disappointed in how my life has turned out. The dissonance between my expectations and my actuality created a pain in my heart. This pain stopped me dead in my tracks 6 months ago, and I was forced to look inside, and find the root of the problem. 6 months ago, I was working at TD, as a teller, making a little over minimum wage. I was unhappy, and confused as to why, with my degree, I wasn’t getting more out of life. Then it dawned on me, my degree wasn’t special. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree, double majoring in psychology and criminology; 2 of the most popular subjects at the time. Then it dawned on me: if my degree is so common, what else about me isn’t so different?
Then I watched as all the walls holding up my life, came tumbling down. I felt as if someone had punched me in the stomach. I was brought to my knees. I was angry. So angry, for my whole life was a lie. I felt like everyone had conspired against me, whispering in my ear something that wasn’t true, laughing at me behind my back, as if to say “She really believes us…She’s so gullible.” I moved on from feeling angry to feeling incredibly sad, disappointed, mourning the loss of my wasted youth. My mother always said that I would wake up one day, and I would be 25. And now, I had let life fly by, and I was still standing still.
Then the fog cleared, and I had the most empowering moment of my life. I still get a rush, a sensational feeling whenever I speak of this moment. My heart felt weightless, my stomach stopped churning, my mind felt clear. I had just given myself the most treasured gift you can give anyone, I had given myself my life back. I gave myself the power to create my own reality. I had found my joie de vivre, my passion for life. I wanted to be better. I saw clearly now the direction I wanted to go and I was ready to make the first step. I decided instead of always thinking about my goals, my wishes, my dreams, I am going to start to walk towards them. Thoughts can translate into actions, but you need your feet to walk you there**.
(** I developed a mantra, and since then, whenever I feel disappointed, I always play this in my head, “Success is taking the first step forward; your body will follow your feet.”)
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