Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Comm 104 (aka Risk-Taking 101)

I was prepared to give a 2-3 minute speech today in Public Speaking class on my great-grandfather Ben, a Russian immigrant who refused to collect social security until he was 80 years old because he was convinced it was welfare. However, all of a sudden I thought, 'I don't actually know this story about Ben. I mean, I know the details, but it means little to me since I heard about it this weekend for the sole purpose of telling the class about it. So, come on, why don't I just get up there and talk about what I do know, about Dad, of course!' 

In my head I was debating whether I should tell the story of my Dad in the porta-potty that up and left while he was in it, or the story of how he got his butterfly tattoo. Even though I had not practiced telling these stories, I thought I would be fine once I got up there. I was number 18 out of 20, and let's just say I was hoping that everyone ahead of me would go over in time, but alas!, there was time for everyone, and I had the awful luck of having to follow the cute Brazilian exchange student who told us some humurous account of a famous prostitute in his village that everyone was either jealous or in love with; unfortunately I could not catch the important details since I was in my head figuring out how I would tell everyone about my dad's ink. 

When I got up there at the lectern, I announced, "I was prepared to tell you all a story about my great-grandfather, but I think I will actually tell you about someone I know better, my Dad." I could hear people breathe in upon hearing me say this, and I'm guessing they thought to themselves, 'Woah! Is she nuts? Will she actually be able to pull off impromptu speaking?!' 

In the beginning, I painted a picture of my Dad as a normal, middle-aged guy who walks white, fluffy Lucky twice a day, plays golf, and does other repetitive things that make up his mundane routine (sorry, Dad, I swear I love you!). I then talked about how as kids, my brothers and I would try to get him to open up about his past, but he was tight-lipped. After a few years, we started to wear down his patience, and little-by-little he confided to us about his tumultuous, disobedient youthhood which included motorcycles, impromptu trips down the eastern coast, and other daliances. We noticed how he had this tattoo that he'd try to cover up with polo shirt-sleeves, and we knew that in Judaism it is not widely accepted to tamper with the body. Finally, we learned that his parents had sent him to a remedial boarding school in New Hampshire, and one night, he got a little too wet at the bar or in a parking lot somewhere, and in the morning, he woke up with a tattoo of a colorful butterfly on his arm. The moral of the story, which I came up with on the spot, had to do with how our parents aren't as boring as we take them for. 

At the end of my speech, I knew I had probably surprised most of the class, since I had done pretty well on the other three speeches we've delivered thus far, and though this speech had interesting content, the delivery was just plain ol' poor. On one hand, I felt irresponsible for going up to deliver a speech that I knew would be sub-par, but on the other side, I felt so proud that I could actually take the risk for the sake of improving the passion driving the story, even though I was uncertain of how the delivery would be. 

I was shaken, but pleased. Don't you know those situations where you have a smile on your face that might seem inappropriate to those who don't understand? I suppose I could have avoided the sudden urge to change my topic to something more exciting had I been more honest with myself when brainstorming ideas, rather than 'giving in' to something I didn't really believe in. Even though I wish I hadn't had to do what I did today, I realized that sometimes it just feels so damn invigorating to be unsure, even in Public Speaking class.


Sanaz Arjomand said...

you ARE a brave girl, and i look up to you for that. a grade is just a letter, and who cares what your classmates think, really--even the cute brazilian ones. but, i'm super curious: what is the story of your dad's tat?!
this reminded me of an experience i had on my last day in d.c. i was so overwhelmed and grateful for the positive review that i got from my boss (whom i really admired) that i sobbed the entire way home. people on the metro didn't get it, either.

Daddle said...

You took poetic liberties with the story of my tat!

No problem.. Mr. Mundane