“Don’t trip. Don’t trip.”
These were the thoughts going through my head as I went up the steps to the stage. During pre-show prep, I saw that the carpet where I’d be standing was a little shaggy. I looked at my boots.
“Shit, maybe I should get my flats from the car. My heels will get caught.”
But I didn’t. There was too much adrenaline pumping through my body. I focused on knowing where I’d sit. Remembering my first words. Remembering my last. Forgetting that there were 800 people in the audience that night – not to mention the live stream.
Did I mention this was my first big public speaking gig? I sent the proposal to Ignite on a whim. I’d done that before, and just like the past, I figured I wouldn’t get picked. So many more inspirational people with incredible stories apply every quarter. Why would mine get picked?
It did. I got the email right before Kelly Clarkson took the stage at Key Arena on August 12th. I was already an emotional mess because I’d been wanting to see Kelly Clarkson live for 13 years, so I didn’t even have the time to process the fact that my Ignite talk was accepted. No time to process the fact that I’d be standing on stage at Town Hall in Seattle, baring my soul about a topic I’d kept inside for 20 years.
Not that I had time to process it after. Traveling, work, conferences…the next month was a whirlwind, and right before I got on the plane at Cleveland to head back to Seattle, I submitted my slides for the talk.
“Shit, well, that’s happening.”
On September 17, I listened to 6 amazing people go up on stage and give their Ignite talks before me. I started to lose focus. I had to remember to breathe.
I made it on stage without tripping, grabbed the microphone from Scott Berkun and then was transformed into a Charlie Brown cartoon. My own words sounded like the teacher’s garbled speech, the audience like the background drawings that stay still. I made the mistake of glancing down at my slides once, and it threw me off. I glanced up at one point and noticed my friend’s husband in the back row (but didn’t focus enough to see her.) Three of my lovelies were in the audience that day, plus a few of my friends watching at home.
Once I got off the stage, I sat down. One of the other speakers gave me a hug. I grabbed my phone. There was one more speaker between me and intermission. I tried to hold back the tears. My friends were posting funny screenshots of the live stream on my Facebook. I smiled through the tears that inevitably came down my cheeks. At intermission, my friends found me to give me a hug.
“Did I say words? Were they in English?”
Audience members came up to me, thanking me for my bravery. For sharing my story. The guy who was in charge of the slides told me that I was right on point – I must’ve practiced meticulously.
I remembered that there were 800 people in the audience that night. My knees buckled.
A good friend asked me what made me choose to share my story – this story – now. I told him that it was time. The reason I hadn’t shared it is because I’d been scared, but I have bigger fears I tackle every single day to survive.
Besides, I said I wanted to do more public speaking. What better way to start by ripping my heart out and leaving it on the stage for the world to see?