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My Saving Grace

(Speech 1 Toastmasters Competent Communication Manual) - ICE BREAKER

After attending the very last of Nairobi's Early birds Toastmasters meeting this morning. I am continually amazed at what one can achieve by simply choosing to face a fear and embrace the marathon that is learning to be a leader who is not only eloquent in speech but one who strives to inspire any crowd. It's simpler than we think, gathering the courage to stand in front of a crowd and flawlessly deliver a prepared speech from memory. It surely is a tasking assignment to say the least...but a significant step towards unlocking your greatest potential and achieving ultimate self confidence as a leader. A journey that I officially and nervously begun on the 29th of November 2017 and through discipline, aim to see it through to its end. Today I was reminded of the need to take heed of those things in life that are may seem insignificant in a moment but upon further study, their significance is brought to light. This could be as simple as a smile at the right moment. We never know what direction our lives will take us...but for as long as we are here, may we take charge of our own learning and strive to leave the world a little better than we found it through our interactions. As my baptism in to the club, portraying my seriousness, I delivered the following speech, and the words of encouragement and suggestions of areas to improve on received thereafter will always have me craving center stage, yearning for a chance to learn and grow some more.....

Growing up in a nuclear family of seven, I was blessed to be born 3rd out of the five children; 4 of whom are girls and 1 boy. The last born, leader of the pack, the only other family member that’s weirder than me. Being the only son, he refers to us (his sisters) as ‘THE GIRLS’ – we even have a WhatsApp group specifically named after his ‘endearing’ referral.

You see, before my brother was born, my parents had 4 daughters. My father being the African man he is, ached really bad for a son to carry on and complete his lineage like he himself had done for his father before. This would take a few years to manifest but in the meantime, my father, decided to gift me this specific role – Acting son. On weekends and holidays, in addition to all my daughterly chores, my father would call upon me whenever he serviced his car. My main duties included jacking the car, following his every instruction and passing whatever tools he needed while he laid propped beneath the car. All this while my sisters sat in front of the TV, I couldn’t feel any different. Occasionally, he would ask me to take lead when initiating a tire change. My father would watch me jack up the car, take the wrench in hand and proceed to fail at releasing the bolts that held it in all place. He would thereafter proceed to taunt my efforts saying: “What do you mean you do not have the strength when I watch you eat ugali every night”, with shock written all over his face.

It was such moments that made me truly question my relation to this family, I had to be adopted. These people don' love me. Why am I the only one out here doing this? It’s clearly not a one-man job! This is punishment! Over time, I started to believe that I even looked different and I started acting different, always the naughty one with the bad grades whom never seemed to carry any seriousness for anything.

It wasn’t long before my father had to resort to disciplining me for my wayward mannerisms. These bouts of discipline were sporadic and served hot enough to keep them in mind the next time I thought of being disobedient…or so you would think. My rebellion was short lived however, for one windy September morning, I committed my last crime. Stealing lunch money from my father’s wallet. I had stolen before; I was a seasoned expert in that arena but they had never caught me before that morning. When my father returned from work that evening, he delivered what would be his last stroke. I had stolen enough. By now, my brother had been born and was only 3 months old. Having been patient with my antics for so long, my mother finally sat me down. Frustrated and concerned about my wayward manners and inability to keep my grades up like her other daughters, she summoned me into her quarters, feeling like she had failed as a mother, she decided to have a stern talk with me. "Winnie, it worries me how much you already love money, but you are only so young", she said. "What’s next......prostitution?", she continued.

First of all, let’s all observe a moment of silence as those words sink in. PROSTITUTION! At the age of 12, those words rang around my mind, so huge and ugly they made me cringe in disgust. It was then that she unleashed one of my father’s belts and proceeded to love me with it. See, my mother is the soft one of the two, she never stooped to this level. I knew I had done wrong. For my brother’s sake, I needed to change. He couldn't grow up with a role model like me. Long story short, I stopped stealing thereafter and recognised this habit as a cry for attention and a means of overcoming the selfish fetish that is my overtly sweet-tooth. For years after that, I still carried around my feelings of "difference" in relation to my family and the world in general. This manifested itself in non-monetary terms thankfully, my grades improved and life went on.

What my parents did for me I will forever remember and encourage. They are the sole reason I am the woman standing before you today. Very virtuous, giving and as a biologist, a scholar at heart. None of this would have been possible without their sheer determination to give me a better life than the one I initially wanted for myself. I therefore, leave you all with the firm notion that children should be disciplined if wayward, but this should be done from an angle of love and not punishment. And as for always feeling like I didn't belong, this still exists within me, but having been introduced to the quote; "BE YOURSELF! EVERYONE ELSE IS TAKEN!!" I no longer feel the need to fit into anyone's box, my family included. I can only be whom I was made to be and this has been MY SAVING GRACE.

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