“Toastmasters Would be Good for You”

The way that the writing a blog idea came up three times before I acted on it reminds me of another time when something was presented to me three times before I took action. That was ten years ago in 2004 when three different women whose opinions I valued and who are mentors for me said to me. “ Megan , Toastmasters would be good for you.” This was during the chronic fatigue phase of my life, having recovered enough in the previous 5 years to contemplate the possibility of adding an activity into my life beyond essential self care. I had been living a very reclusive life during those years out of necessity.

The first time someone said to me “Toastmasters would be good for you”, I felt my anxiety rise and immediately thought “No way! That is too scary.” The second time a valued mentor said “Toastmasters would be good for you”, I paused and then thought, ‘No way, that is too scary’. When the third person said the same thing to me, I remember turning my eyes up to the heavens in surrender and saying “Okay, I hear you, I will check out Toastmasters!”.

I found a club nearby in Mullumbimby and went along to see what it was all about. The first meeting I went to I sat there nervously, intently watching what happened. In one segment called Table Topics, randomly selected people are given a topic and are asked to stand up in front of everyone and speak to that topic for two minutes with no preparation time.IMG_0790

That night one of the members was asked a question, walked up to the front of the room, stood there for a while in silence, then he said ‘I can’t think of anything to say’ and he walked back to his seat to warm and enthusiastic applause from the audience. I realised in that moment that if that was the worst that could happen, I could do that! My back stop position would be just to sit back down again and apparently that was okay. I joined. I remember the first time I was asked a Table Topic question I walked up to the front of the room and spoke tentatively in a tremulous voice for about 20 seconds before my mind went blank and I scurried back to my seat on shaky legs to thunderous, supportive applause. I was on my way. It soon became a creative outlet for me as I prepared and presented speeches on subjects that mattered to me.

Within two months of joining, the club founder Toni approached me one evening and said, ” You will do the Vice President Public Relations role won’t you Megan?” Toni Is known as Princess Pushy for obvious reasons and she has a way of inviting you to do things, where the only option seems to be to say yes. So I unexpectedly joined the Executive team and began my journey in the leadership side of Toastmasters. I was on the Executive team for many years in various roles, culminating in being the President of the club, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The following year I took on a District role, being mentor to all the Presidents in the District which covered about 180 clubs in three states. I enjoyed mentoring and supporting others to lead. I continue to enjoy mentoring members of my own club.

IMG_0520Joining Toastmasters led me to other experiences that I never would have dreamed of doing. Within three months of joining the club, still a very nervous and inexperienced speaker some friends started a monthly music event at a local hall called the Mullumbimby Folk Music club, a showcase of original music. They said ‘Great Megan, you do public speaking, so you can be the MC.” This was another moment when something unexpected was presented to me, it felt absolutely terrifying and yet I knew deep down that I needed to do it. With my pulse racing I agreed.

 

I introduced the night’s performers,  eight ‘chalkboard’ performers and a feature artist, and presented in front of  up to 100 people. I undertook that role for six years, gradually growing in skill and confidence and to my surprise I found that I grew to love it,  especially supporting nervous first timers to go beyond their own fears. My own inner performer came out, supported by my Toastmasters training.

Sometimes things come up again and again for a reason, to gain our attention and I have learned that sometimes they can come through external voices rather my own inner intuitive ‘whispers’. Especially when my inner whispers are being drowned out by fear or doubt or when I cannot see what my own potential is, and others who know me well can. I am very grateful to those three women for seeing in me something that I did not recognise in myself and for setting me on a path which has proved to be expansive and empowering. It has been an essential part of my healing journey, helping to re-connect me with my spirit, my essence.

 

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