There was a long silence inside my head and just one sound echoed through my now-feeling-almost-hollow body, the brag of my heart “I CAN!, I CAN!”, beating in an elegant symmetry with a thunderous beat. Loud background sounds felt like a faint mumbling and images were all tiny phosphenes. I felt like a corps, sitting upright and I was pretty sure that even the slightest movement will sound mammoth. It didn’t dawn upon me that I was frozen in the same position for the last 23 minutes. My lungs tried to fill me in with tons of oxygen with long, deep breaths.
There was an unspoken tension among us. We sat on the chairs that were arranged in a semi-circle, four houses, four girls each from each section, sat there each ready with their experiences and bold voices to crush me. “Our next participant is Prachi Choubey.” This burst my thought bubble and nausea bombarded me with full power, my breaths got heavy and made my skin feel more like skin and for a split second my heart stopped the supply of oxygen laden blood to my desperately in need muscles and I couldn’t get up. I inhaled a mammoth amount of oxygen all in one drag and got up. I walked awkwardly towards the mic. I stood there for a second, scanning the audience and all my fingertip-sized confidence creased to exist on the sight of thousands of my fellow students, who failed to the highest degrees in paying attention. Their murmurings echoed through the auditorium. My mind kept on playing all ‘what if’ sentences like a broken record player. I know I had to speak something but my mouth turned dry and sweat started to lubricate my body.
I opened my mouth to speak but my to tongue failed to utter a single word, probably because of the lack of coordination between my thoughts and actions. My head echoed the same sentences and I couldn’t stop the malfunctioning record player of my brain. I knew I had to do something, there’s no going back now. I took a deep breath to avoid this imbroglio and screamed inside my head which seemed to stop the irritating repetitions and slowly everything I’ve prepared for this day flashed before my eyes. I began. After a couple of seconds, the audience started being fewer mouths and more ears. They all leaned forward. (People were actually interested in hearing me out.) In a couple of minutes, my voice echoed through the wall of the auditorium. I could feel the all those thousands of ears, that were lent to me, trying to catch every word that went out if my mouth.
As soon as I finished with a polite thank you, the walls of the auditorium came alive with the thunderous applause coming from the audience. Blood rushed to my cheeks making me blush. That ineffable feeling was out of the world experience for me. For the rest of the competition is was smiling from ear to ear. I walked out of the auditorium with an aura of triumph. And nearly everyone I ran into that day appreciated me. When the results were announced after a couple of days during the assembly, I stood frozen again, keenly waiting for my name to be called out.
Unexpectedly, I didn’t win. Not even the third prize, I was so disappointed in the judges that I could not even speak a word about it. I felt like running away from the crowd of students, I was pretty sure that I did really well that day. I was so upset that day that I almost gave up my passion for public speaking. Almost. I knew it was not fair but again life is not always a bed of roses. I was not the only one who did her best and still did not win, I was among those 13 who had lost despite doing their best. Maybe this was not about winning or losing but rather about learning. Which indeed I along with 15 others had.
That day I learned a very important lesson that will be carried with me throughout my life. As children, we were taught that life is a big race but what often laid unspoken was the fact that the competitors in the race are our own images that we have to defeat in order to win. There will be thousands of rock bottoms and you’re gonna fall for almost all. But it is important that every time you fall, you always get up. Somethings never change but Somethings keep on changing throughout your life. You cannot please everyone but you can always please yourself. Don’t let anything or anyone build your confidence, not even an inch of it. And it’s important to know that the human mind does not have horizons but the only infinite potential that lays undiscovered.
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