Tuesday, January 19, 2016
For long time blog readers, well, for those that have been with me since the start you'll know (okay, okay, you probably won't know) that this was the second picture I ever used in my blog as I talked about my "International Event" in Vancouver when I attended the Olympics with a ticket my friend Rob had given me. It just so happened at that time that when I got back from Vancouver I would be starting fulltime at TouchPoint Autism Services now known as Easter Seals Midwest. However, while I was up in Vancouver, Rob's dad is the secretary of the Arbutus Rotary club and their speaker for that Friday, if I recall, took a nasty fall as they were one of the Olympian skiers and would be unable to attend so with a day's notice the Club made a call to the bullpen and I got the nod as the speaker.
To this day I still remember the fear I had that day because I had only presented to police officers and I required a powerpoint to stay on track and I was only given 15 minutes and at that time I had no ability to trim or cut because I was rather rigid.
Last week, almost six years since Vancouver, I would present to my second Rotary Club and this time it would be in Richmond, Missouri. My dad actually had to drive me to this as I was extremely sick but I dared not miss a presentation after missing two last year to illness. And for me, this was sort of a symbolic return to where I began and a way to show how I've grown as a presenter and a person.
One of the members made arrangements and I was given a full 45 minutes and I did a variation of my, "five most important statements about autism" and essentially winged the entire presentation and even had time for a few questions afterwards. At the end there was a standing ovation and, as I usually do when people applaud, I look down at the ground to try and not be there because I don't know how to react to that, but what those looking at me didn't know was how deep in thought I was reflecting back to my 17th career presentation in Vancouver and now giving my 709th and just how much stage fright I had overcome and my ability to be flexible in presenting.
There are so many defining moments in my life that I've just now compared them to seeds being planted and Vancouver six years ago was vital in my development because regardless of how well or awful I was that day (they said I was fantastic) I have come so far but the confidence they gave me allowed for each step thereafter to happen and the difference between then and now is almost unrecognizable.
This is the thing about life; it's hard to know development is happening because we want everything to be perfect now. The thing is this though, I feel; if I would've been as good as I was now then I wonder if I would have advanced my craft. I wonder if I'd still be as humble as I am. This isn't to say I was bad then, but I know in terms of my comfort and confidence on stage is much better now. I used to get so nervous before a presentation I was sure I would lose whatever I'd have previously eaten (hence why I still don't eat before a presentation. Some may say it's a superstition, it's just that had I done so back when I started it may have been, well, I'd truly rather not want to think about it) but now I go in with a smile and do whatever I need to do to bring the information that I think those hearing me need to know the most.
With all this said I'm thankful to both Rotary Clubs for having me and also that things may difficult to start with for a reason. For one, I appreciate what I do a lot more but it's within the challenge that shaped me and challenged me to get it right. I love a challenge (so long as it's a challenge I know I can overcome; otherwise I may give up too fast) and the challenge of presenting, now six years later, remains as I still try to become better, get my timing down sharper, and find better uses of words to convey to my audiences the joys, sorrows, and sometimes comedic outcomes of living life on the autism spectrum. I don't know when the next time I will present at a Rotary Club will be, but if it's in six years I'll know I'll look back on these two presentations as a barometer to see if I have continued to progress in my craft and I know I'll look back on both and smile.