If only I had walked back on that stage…
I used to keep questioning myself for a long time on the above “If” of my life and I have no answers. This used to make an ugly entrance in my thoughts every time I was up for a presentation or public speaking (ironically supposed to my significant strength).
I was 20 and was in the final round of extempore. I was really confident as I had racked up quite a few winning certificates in the past couple of years. I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was the saying “Pride comes before the fall” coming to life? I got the topic and I started off really well! And Bang! Before I know it, I have come to a pregnant pause. I am looking at those hundreds of people and I forget everything. I fumble. I grasp. And I walk-off. I went into a corner backstage and had this minor panic attack. What had just happened? My friends and professors were gobsmacked! Later, the judges offered a second chance and without knowing or understanding why, I refused.
And I never discussed those seconds with anyone. I am not sure if my parents were even aware of it.
The aftermath was, I stayed clear of the stage for almost a year. In my final semester, my professors convinced me to try one more time for a smaller event. It was a different me on the stage. Quiet and earnest – it did end up giving me a second place and the much-needed confidence boost.
But every time I faced an audience, the inside me was a deer caught in headlights. I tighten ed up with that awful swallowing feeling. I had to work hard to mute the scared voice and hit straight, for the sake of my team members and grades. My two years in university ensured I had enough time to contain the panic germ into a small corner. And three years into the corporate I am back in my element, albeit quiet and restrained.
I was attending a stand-up comic show with the line-up being a mix of first-timers and upcoming comedians. Through the two hour show, there were some brilliant, some cringe-worthy and some truly awful jokes shared and bantered around. While some made our tummies ache, some did not even deserve the customary crack on the smile. But being so close to the stage, I saw all the standard signs. The sweat on the brow, the flickering of eyes, the slight tremble of the fingers.
For a moment, I was 20 again when I had depended on the support from my friends and professors in the audience to attempt the hard climb back up to the stage and thrive. Which is why every comedian yesterday got a huge round of applause from us – at times, it is not the content that carries you to the next level but just the encouraging audience.
And it also brought back my nagging question to which I STILL have no answer. What if I had taken the second chance?
What would have happened then?
Linda has come up with a thoughtful prompt of “if/then” on her Stream of Consciousness Saturday!