Toasting My Transformative Tale
It’s been 22 years to the week since I first tiptoed into a little place called Toastmasters International. Back then, I had absolutely no clue that my life was about to take an exhilarating detour. Picture this: I was the queen of excuses for a good nine months, stubbornly resisting the call to join.
But fate, or perhaps my guardian angels, had different plans for me. One sunny August day in 2001, as I strolled through our local grocery store, I bumped into a familiar face, Diane. She was the wife of a man I’d supported during his battle with Crohn’s disease. And let me tell you, we didn’t just bump into each other once or twice; it happened a staggering seven times that day. We both knew there was something in the air, but there was no way I was spilling the beans about my secret need to join Toastmasters. You see, this was the era before computers ruled our lives, and I was hardly an internet wiz. Yep, my age is showing!
As fate would have it, though, when I got home, the phone was ringing, and it was none other than Diane. My first thought? Panic! What if she’d managed to dig up that elusive Toastmasters contact? My fears were realized when Diane revealed she had indeed found the golden number. I graciously accepted it, my last excuses slipping through my fingers.
Summoning every ounce of bravery, I dialed the number Diane had given me and left a message. A few days later, a kind soul named Ross returned my call. I spilled my guts, confessing that my lifelong fear of public speaking had kept me from ever giving a speech in school. My fear was so powerful that it even left me with a messy trail of anecdotes involving teachers’ desks. Yes, I was infamous for that. But now, at the ripe age of 43, I was asked to do my very first TV interview. Just thinking about it made me see stars!
Ross was a beacon of support and kindness as he listened to my story. He assured me that Toastmasters would provide the support I needed, and maybe, just maybe, life would surprise me in delightful ways. So, on September 11, 2001, I took a deep breath and walked through those Toastmasters doors, where I was greeted by the man who would change my life forever.
Ross became my mentor, the gentle push I needed every week to get up and speak, share the tip of the week, and prepare and deliver amazing speeches. The transformation over the next year was nothing short of magical. My very first speech, “The Ice Breaker,” morphed into my life story, “Soar Above It All – Overcoming Adversities in Life.” My third speech, “Speaking With Sincerity,” birthed a children’s book series, “Rocky’s Journey,” which included “Rocky’s Trip To The Hospital” and “Rocky’s Positive Thoughts Coloring Book.”
I conquered my fear of TV interviews and began to thrive in front of the camera. I spoke at bookstores, schools, and soon, I was a paid motivational speaker. As for that kind man, Ross, he transformed into my husband and best friend, and we’ve shared 22 wonderfully amazing years together, not to mention the joys of having many puppies.
Toastmasters infused me with newfound confidence that spilled over into my personal and professional life. I pursued a career as a professional speaker and even became a radio host for an AM radio station in Rhode Island. I hosted the drive-home hour show and had the honor of interviewing celebrities.
With every speech I delivered, Ross meticulously counted my “umms” and “ahhs,” giving me invaluable feedback. Guilty as charged, I did sprinkle a few filler words here and there, but with Ross on the sidelines during my speeches, giving me the thumbs-up and constructive advice, I couldn’t help but grow.
In the months ahead, I’ll be walking the red carpet at a Gala in New York City, accepting an award as the Best Hospice Pet Doula and Pet Healer. I’m gearing up for appearances on even bigger TV networks, and I’ve become a seasoned stage speaker. Ironically, Ross often jokes that he used to get me talking, but now he’s the one trying to get me to hush. Yet, put me on stage, and I’ll talk the roof off!
My recent return to Toastmasters after a 21-year hiatus marked a remarkable milestone. I spontaneously rose to deliver an impromptu speech with no prep and no notes. Yes, I used to be one of those folks who wouldn’t say a word without extensive practice and piles of notes. Winning the trophy and ribbon for Best Impromptu Speaker that night made me reflect on how proud I am for taking that leap into the unknown all those years ago.
My journey with Toastmasters hasn’t just changed my life; it’s empowered me to make a positive impact on millions around the globe. I am truly blessed, and my heart brims with gratitude.
So, here’s a heartfelt shout-out to Toastmasters, the beacon that helped me shine my light! If fear is holding you back, take a deep breath and connect with your local Toastmasters Club. I can guarantee it’ll change your life too!
For more details, check out www.toastmasters.org, and let the adventure begin!