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My Happiest Memory

Updated: Aug 2, 2022

'Why me!' Those were the words I exclaimed when my teacher told me that I was going to be doing the talk show for my house that session. I was 13 going through a bunch of insecurities and the last thing I wanted was to stand before 700 students in my boarding school and flop. It didn't help that I was terribly shy and got tongue-tied in front of people.

But my teacher didn't care about that. It was funny because he knew first-hand just how bad I was at speaking in front of people and yet he chose me despite the many orators that he could choose from. He told me that I could do it, that this was going to be a learning opportunity and a chance to spread my wings beyond academics. He also mentioned that I had no choice in the matter and I just had to suck it up like a big girl.

That was the start of 2 rigorous weeks of preparation. For the first time in my life, I was in a situation that I couldn't get out of. If I didn't prepare enough, I was going to flop in front of all my teachers, friends, fellow students, and most importantly my crush! Which 13 year old wants that?

So, I did what I do best- put my all into the task in front of me. I went to the library during breaks and night prep. I went to the computer lab when it was my class's turn and I followed my English teacher everywhere so that I could learn how to put words together in the most captivating way. I also took my time to look at past winning speeches that others did and broke it down with my teacher so that I could adapt the key aspects into my own speech.

One week after I received the dreadful news, my speech was ready and now came the difficult part; practicing in front of my friends. They were the most supportive people you could find anywhere but they never took anything seriously apart from exams. They were going to poke fun at my mistakes (all with good intentions of course) and try to make the situation as light as possible.

No matter how hard I tried to make them take this seriously, we ended up laughing at my mistakes and shyness. I didn't like it, but I have to admit that it was great that I didn't have to be serious all the time. Every day, we made progress and I got more confident in the way I talked until one day my friends gave me a round of applause. I knew then that I was ready for the crowd that awaits and I thought to myself that if I ended up stammering and sweating on stage, the one thing no one can say was that I didn't put the work in. Luckily, that didn't happen.

The week was finally over and D-Day was here. It was a Saturday so I practiced till the sunset and dressed up in my school uniform. I can't count the number of times I looked in the mirror and told myself 'You've got this' or how many times it felt like my heart was beating out of my chest.

By 7pm, I met up with my teacher and we went over the speech for the last time. He told me that I should not look at the faces of the people I was talking to because that would freak me out. Instead, he advised me to look at the top of their heads or just focus on a single object or person and just talk to that. It sounded a bit silly to me because how won't I look at their faces?

He stayed with me throughout until 8pm came and I had to go on stage. I was speaking first before other contestants took the stage and it goes without saying that I was absolutely trembling. It brings a smile to my face everytime I remember. I never thought I would do it but I end up not looking at anyone.

I focused on one of the light lamps and when I needed to look at people for impact, I searched for the faces of my friends in the audience. Time went by and soon, I was giving my closing notes. I took a deep breath, faced the people in front of me, and I started to hear people clapping. Were they seriously cheering for me???

I looked for my teacher in the audience and he had the biggest smile on his face. I looked at my friends and they were mouthing some comforting words to me. I finally turned back to the audience, took a bow and left the stage.

All the stress, anxiety, self-doubt, and nervousness of the past 2 weeks washed off in an instant. My teacher came to meet me and told me that I did an incredible job and I knew how picky he was with giving compliments so that made me feel much better.

The rest of the night was a blur and the 4 remaining speakers went on stage. Now, we had to wait 10 minutes for the result and that came with another bout of anxiety. I reminded myself that even if I didn't win, I sure as hell did my best and I will not be a sore loser.

When the time elapsed, we got called to the stage again and we were commended for our efforts. The judges took their sweet time announcing the results to build up anticipation and at that point, I wished I could go and grab the results from his hand.

While I was thinking about how annoying the announcer was, I heard him say my name 'Nancy Ajayi' and snapped back to reality. Was I last? Did I get disqualified? The remaining contestants were looking at me and for good measure, the announcer repeated the news Nancy Ajayi, you are the winner!!

Thinking about it now, I remember how I couldn't contain my joy as I walked over to the judge to take my prize. There was a slight jump in my step and you wouldn't know that I was the same girl shaking in anxiety when the show was about to start.

I went back to my position with my cheeks hurting and I just couldn't stop smiling no matter how hard I tried. The remaining contestants were giving their positions and the talk show came to an end. Throughout that night, I was on a high and nothing anyone said or did was enough to dull my happiness.

That day taught me that there wasn't anything I couldn't do if I put my mind to it. It taught me to have confidence in myself and stop beating myself down too much. To make the night even better, my crush said something to me that I won't say now but you can bet that it was something good.

I went to bed the happiest girl in the world and became a constant speaker during talk shows.

That, is my happiest memory. What's yours? Don't forget to leave a comment if you enjoyed this.

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