Fear is defined often as a negative reaction provoked by a looming danger. As humans, we have felt this negative emotion in varying degrees. Some of us fear snakes, heights, death and even the number Thirteen. My fear keeps me from expressing my ideas and myself. My fear is public speaking. Born and raised in Ethiopia I spoke Amharic my native language, until the age of fourteen. I then moved to the United States to join my family. Coming to a new country already had lots of challenges; having to learn a new language makes it a lot harder to overcome the fear of public speaking.
Can you imagine how difficult it was to move? We find it hard moving to a different apartment let alone a whole new country. I had to move from a different continent. Yes, it was very challenging and terrifying.
In spite of my fears, in my first year of high school English class, I found myself having to give a speech report.
From the moment Mrs. Smith, my teacher, announced that we had to present our essay; I was consumed with worry and dread in anticipation. The day was Tuesday and it was unusually muggy and dark outside. As I walked through the tunnel that led to my English class, I wished I could keep walking to my home, my true home. Knowing that there was no hope of going back, I stepped in through the gates of hell to face my demons.
In the class I saw monsters, in varying sizes.
I saw them having huge ears, especially made, for listening to any errors, mispronunciations, and stutters. These beasts had huge eyes, big as baseballs, made to look for nervous ticks. Their huge mouths were filled with enormous tongues like lizards–mouths made for laughing at me and tongues to talk about me behind my back. Oh, such terror! I had never felt so terrified. My heart was beating so fast I thought any minute it would jump out and run away. I walked in slowly, with measured steps. I didn’t want to disturb the creatures. Not wanting them to turn on me this minute, I sat at my desk avoiding any eye contact and made myself as small as a mouse.
I was hoping the main monstrous creature sitting behind the desk would not utter my name. “Ko row beil,” the creature shrieked murdering my name. For a moment, I thought, “That’s not my name. Should I sit here till the monster gets it right?” No, I thought it best not to anger the beast. I stood quickly and moved toward the front of the class. Approaching the front, I smelled a strong perfume emanating from the creatures body. The perfume was so strong it smelled like toilet cleaner with a hint of citrus. I felt light headed either from the overwhelming odor or my fear. My vision got swirly I had to hold on to a desk to keep from falling. In this state, I began to speak my introduction.
Thirty seconds or so into my speech, I began to breathe normally and relaxed a bit. I dared to look down from the ceiling. I looked at my classmates. On their faces were the funniest expressions I had ever seen. There was bewilderment and some looked dumbfounded. Then my brain started to register that I was speaking Amharic my native language. I stopped and looked at those funny expressions on the students’ faces, and I busted out laughing. I could not control my laughter.
Then the whole class erupted with laughter, even the enormous creature behind the teacher’s desk. A few minutes later, the class calmed down from laughter, so had any difficulties I had about speaking. I began again in English this time. I was very relaxed and even had a smile on my face. I finished my presentation it wasn’t perfect but I was done. As I sat back at my chair in relief, the creature stepped out from behind its desk. Looking at the monster’s face I saw similarities. It had the same demeanor, caring and loving as my mother. The monster was no more.
Of course, my fear was not just a fear of speaking to people; rather it was not being understood. There were many factors that added to my fear of public speaking. I believe not being raised by my parents and societal tradition in Ethiopia was significant. In Africa war, famine, and political are realities that separate families. My family had no control over these uncontrollable situations. As a consequence I was not raised by my parents. Not being raised by my parents had impacted my confidence and made me fearful of speaking in public. However, I’m thankful of my first speech in English class. The speech that day built up my character and made me a better person.