Thoughts, Writing

Toastmasters International

I joined Toastmasters International a little over ten months ago. My reasons for joining were so that I can become a more effective and persuasive leader. It was a suggestion of my Chief Information Officer (CIO) as I was having some difficulty with corporate politics. So far I have given three speeches and the feedback has been very positive. I wanted to share my most recent speech with you all in hopes that it will inspire you as it has my fellow toastmasters.

Speech Titled: Life’s Lessons

“As you sit in this room today, take a moment and think about where you are in your life. Think about how you got here—the trials and wins, everything you’ve experienced in your life. Can you pinpoint the events and decisions that led you to this place, here and now? I recently found myself thinking about this very thing. I was never afforded a dull moment in life, which has been both a curse and a blessing but I am satisfied with where I have landed.

The Beatles once said, ‘There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be.’ They said that all you need is love but that one line says so much more. I believe that everything happens for a reason. Most of the time we are not given the benefit of knowing the reason, but you are where you are because it is where you are meant to be. I want to tell you about the good, the bad, and the ugly on my path that has led me to stand in front of you today.

I’d like to start with the ugly. I had my whole life mapped out in High school. I was going to go to college, find a job, get married, buy a house, have kids and live happily ever after, in that order. That, in my teenage mind, was an achievable dream. But as most of you know, I ran into some difficulties when I decided to go into the military and subsequently I injured my back, changing the course of my life, and tearing a sizeable hole in my life map.

The bad happened when I was pregnant with my son and was laid off at MetLife. I still held onto the old American dream belief that if I performed well, I could advance and remain with the company. I was crushed because I had achieved my dream of going to college, obtaining a job, getting married, buying a house and having kids but in losing my job I felt that I was not getting my happily ever after.

But the bad led me to my good on this path. MetLife had asked me to move to North Carolina and stay on with them, but I decided to stay in Connecticut and find a new position with a new company. I was terrified. Worry filled my thoughts as I prepared myself to get back into the pool, being unemployed after working nine years into my career. I realized that I was not living my full potential in my position at MetLife, something I would have never thought about if I hadn’t been laid off. I had so much more to give but there were no avenues to allow me to make improvements, plus I was comfortable. Thankfully, I had business analysis skills that Travelers thought was useful. My happily ever after was back on.

I’ve been at Travelers for about five years and although I would have preferred the path leading to today to be smoother, I know I would not have been prepared to be here in front of you if not for the adversity through the years. I was off my original course, but my injury in the military led me to study computer science at SUNY Brockport, which led me to intern at AXA Financial in Syracuse, NY through Inroads. If I had stayed in Buffalo for college, I would not have been given the opportunity to intern in the upstate NY region, separating me from the pool of resumes where MetLife found me and hired me.

Life, is something that is thrusted upon us, giving us lessons in survival every second that we are breathing. First, we obviously learn to breath. We learn to lift our head; we learn to roll over, to crawl, to walk, to talk. I still remember my son’s frustration at his failed attempts to clap his hands as an infant. The early lessons in life feel difficult and are seemingly impossible until the magical moment when it becomes second nature. Our paths work in a similar fashion and it is our approach that determines our adaptability. In everything I faced, I chose to embrace the situation, believing that it would get better after a while. All roads lead to Rome so you can either give in to the ugly or make the bad look good. Your attitude determines the self-imposed challenges but not the destination. You are here because of all your experiences. Your successes rewarded you for your hard work and your failures prepared you for the path ahead. So, when you reflect on your life, remember: ‘There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be.’ And embrace it.”

3 thoughts on “Toastmasters International”

  1. Jennifer, I am glad that you posted this speech. I wish I could have been present to hear you tell your story. Your words were thoughtful, meaningful, and inspiring.

    Liked by 1 person

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