A few years ago I went to a community college where I took a public speaking course. Public Speaking is the special kind of class where you can legitimately showcase your talents to an audience. People get to see you. They get to hear your voice, see your facial expressions, learn what sort of knowledge you possess, and how you carry yourself. It’s the kind of class that allows you to express.
Self-expression is the best art form in the world. No, scratch that. Art is self-expression. Man, I get so sophisticated when I talk about art forms! I’m legit in tears right now.
In Public Speaking, we had 4 major speech projects to undertake throughout the semester: Interview, Demonstration, Symposium, and Informative.
Interview is where we interview a classmate and talk about them for 3 minutes.
Demonstration is where we demonstrate something we know about that others don’t (e.g. how to make a sandwich).
Symposium is where we’re assigned in groups and have to make a group-speech about an agreed-upon topic.
Finally, Informative is where we talk for 10 minutes about something we’re comfortable with.
Anyway, there was this one lady who went to school part-time and just…seemed to support me unconditionally (like a doting mother) through the semester. Following my Demonstration, she gave me an enthusiastic thumbs up and praise the week after. We were group mates in the Symposium project. After my Informative, she offered me a “good job”, which was the last thing she said to me that semester.
To date, I don’t know what it was that drew her to me but she always saw the positive side of me when I was up there speaking. Even when I was stammering or whatever Public Speaking sin I committed, she always treated me like I was the TedTalk Master.
I’m not going to lie, I didn’t give her much appreciation for her praise back then. I’m someone who keeps his space. By my own admission, I’m reserved to a fault. When she crossed me in the hallway the semester after, she tried to engage me in conversation and I wasn’t too invested. And that Public Speaking class was the only one where we were classmates. Naturally, we went our separate ways.
We didn’t see each other again for another 5 years. I bumped into her at my local Walmart and we spent the next 10 minutes or so chewing the fat. The 5 years where she and I didn’t see each other was a period of me improving my social skills, first impression, and presentation in a conversation. I’ve also learned to smile more. 🙂
At the time, I already published my debut novel 2 months prior. Without missing a beat, she pulled out her phone and asked me where she could find my book. I showed it to her on Amazon and she ordered a paperback without a second thought.
Later that day, she added me on Facebook and said she would tell me her take regarding Heather’s Mannequin. A couple days later, she told me she was wow’ed. She could not put it down. She was absolutely amazed and asked me to autograph her copy. And of course, I said yes.
It’s worth noting that she bought an original edition before I changed the cover to what it is now. Who knows? Maybe in 20 years, she’ll be the owner of a high-value collector’s item! *modest shrug*
Because of Corona, we had to wait for a meet up to get her book signed. Last month, in May, I announced on Facebook that I was moving to Florida. Suddenly, she and I had to plan a mad dash for a meet up before I moved away.
2 days before I left, we met up in the parking lot of a Dunkin and got some iced coffee. As I was signing her book, she was going on about what she loved about my novel. She opined that my writing style resembled Stephen King’s. Makes sense, I read a lot of him in high school. I have a taste for the macabre 😉
She gifted me with a candle before hugging me (social distancing be damned) and headed out.
And that was that.
I’m very thankful I got to meet someone like her. Someone who saw the best in somebody and got to see the more developed side of me 5 years later? That’s a blessing. Did I remind her of somebody she once knew? Was I an inspiration to her? I’m not sure, I never asked.
But maybe some things are best left unsaid. You don’t have to know every thought in someone’s brain. Sometimes being thankful for their presence is enough. Sometimes their zest for knowing you as a person is an inspiration in and of itself. 🙂