Thursday, August 1, 2013

Love the Way You Cry

Today, we started class with a few announcements, then moved into our "dress rehearsal" for the Action Plan presentations tomorrow. I watched my classmates perform their speeches, all of which were either very rehearsed and polished or read off of a script. I had forgotten to print off my draft of my speech, so I was working with the same notes I had written when we practiced our speeches during the public speaking workshop. My classmates all sounded much better than they had when they did their presentations impromptu, but mine sounded much worse. I had gone in the second half of the speeches, and I had had all lunch to stew in my nerves.

The Yale group visited at lunch, and we got to talk to them about what the program was like, and what Brown University was like. It was kind of fun to act as a tour guide while we walked from the Watson building to the VW dining hall. At lunch, we answered questions about our class and asked them questions about theirs. I sat near Liam and Josh, who are both taking Grand Strategies, which sounds a lot more focused on academics than Women and Leadership. It was fun learning about their experience and telling them about ours. 

When we returned to class, I was the first to present. My speech started out fine, but it didn't stay that way. I learned almost immediately that trying to incorporate what I had written in the speech I forgot to print in the one I was performing to the class would make the speech much rougher, but I couldn't help but try to plug in facts, which just made me stutter and pause even more. By the time I started explaining my Action Plan, I was shaking so much that I dropped my notes. One of my classmates had done the same thing, and she wisely didn't try to pick them up, so I felt that I had to do the same. After that, my speech was filled with uncomfortable pauses and poorly structured sentences. About halfway through my explanation of my Action Plan as I had planned it in my written draft, I just gave up, because I knew it could only get worse from there. Since my paper was on the floor, though, I had no idea what my graceful closing line had been, so I made the horrible decision to end it with, "Um...bye."

By the time I started answering questions, my eyes were welled up from frustration. I had gathered myself enough to give intelligent answers, far more well-phrased than my speech, but once my classmates started giving feedback intended to comfort me, I just started crying. I tried to explain that this happened all the time, bursting into tears at the most inconvenient moments, and that my classmates should feel free to criticize me, but only a few were willing to give negative comments (which are actually the most helpful). It wasn't exactly a fun experience, but I learned the hard way that I should bring a water bottle and have my speech written out on note cards for tomorrow. 

Then we reviewed a few case studies in groups. My group had a situation where we had a club at school, and the funding for our club would be removed if we didn't attend a workshop on gender and making a safe space for the LGBTQ community. In the scenario, members of our club refused to attend the workshop because it was "un-Christian." There was much more to the situation we were given, but we got some interesting responses in the group, and we presented our solution to the class: having those members try the workshop and leave if they felt uncomfortable. Another group had a girl's sports team planning on fundraising with date auctions and a car wash with short-shorts and crop tops. The group presented a long list of great alternative ideas for fundraisers, including selling a calendar of action shots from the team. 

Then we had another community meeting about things like returning our keys and not forgetting to bring our garbage downstairs in the morning. I still have to pack up my stuff for tomorrow, but I'm looking forward to presentations. I can't do any worse than I did today, so I should have a great time. 

It feels strange. Thinking about how long I've been here, I might guess it was only a few days, but thinking about how much I've learned, I would guess it was months. I really miss everyone (family, friends, and my dog) and everything (the weather!) back home, and I can't wait to be home, but I don't want to leave. It's an odd tug-of-war between missing home and knowing I'll miss Brown. I only know that no matter what, I will return home knowing things about leadership and about myself that I doubt I would have found out so soon otherwise. This class is worth so much more than the effort we put in to get in to the program, and I know I'm very lucky to be here. I'm really excited for starting my Action Plan back home. I think it will work, and I know I'll have a lot of fun making it happen. To me, this class used to be about colleges, but now, it's about so much more.
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