I love public speaking. It is my work, play, passion, and life’s calling. When I saw public speaking, I am specifically referring to Autism advocacy. However it was not always this way.
Due to my Autism, I can be socially awkward at times and say things that I look back and go, “Wait…what??” I was bullied and ridiculed throughout my academic life for being “weird”. This is something I am coming to terms with to this day. I have an unusual way of thinking. My brain is simply wired differently.
As an example, when I was in College for a short period before dropping out, I took a public speaking course as a means of trying to overcome my self consciousness. Our first day, our instructor asked who we thought was a great orator or public speaker. Me being the “genius” I am, I said “Hitler”. Now before you attack me in the comments, I am ABSOLUTELY 100% NOT saying Hitler was a good person or patronizing him. All I meant was he was good at riling up a crowd and getting people to listen to him. Am I wrong? If so, comment.
So now I am out of school. My social awkwardness is still there. But about five years ago, I was offered a job with Pathfinders for Autism. The job? Public speaking about my diagnosis of Autism and hospital experiences. Um…great… I was skeptical at first but after the first time doing it, I was HOOKED!
So what changed? The content. Instead of being told what to talk about and being given free reign to do things my way (within reason) made all the difference. I know my experiences in hospitals and the challenges I faced in those situations with Autism like the back of my hand. I can be myself at work. I can be funny as well as informative.
This job is what gave me that boost I needed to actively become a self-advocate. I was apprehensive about it at first. Now it is like a high for me. It’s a euphoria. I have the time of my life at work! I think it helps that my bosses and coworkers are as enthusiastic about the job as I am. Plus we all answer to the same person, former Baltimore Oriole BJ Surhoff and his wife. I mean, how freaking cool is that? I work for a former professional baseball player!
I have never once felt insecure or self-conscious at work. Talking to people was something that had always come naturally for me. But talking in public as opposed to a classroom or to a friend is different. There is more pressure and, for me, intimidation there. Being judged was always a fear of mine.
I can have fun with my job. My bosses are super chill and laid back. So my fear has turned into a life’s calling. Have you had a similar experience? Let me know in the comments!