Monday, March 27th was a dream come true. It’s when I officially celebrated the launch of Diary of a Beautiful Disaster with the world. (OK, maybe the world is a bit exaggerated, but at least with my friends and family.)
I’ve never been a huge enthusiast of public speaking. I don’t mind it. I don’t hate it either. I just don’t love it. Then again, I’m not much of a talker in general, am I?
I’m also a little self-conscious of the sound of my voice. It’s very common for people with craniofacial anomalies to have speech impediments. While I did work extraordinarily hard as a child to learn to speak clearly and properly, there’s no denying that my narrow nasal passage complicates things. I definitely sound more nasal than most people when I talk and sometimes I wonder how difficult it is for others to understand what I say.
My strange sounding voice is often one of the first things people notice about me. It’s part of my many identifiers and just one of the TCS traits of which I am constantly aware. That’s why my heart sank a bit when I found out I’d have to give a little speech and read a portion of my book during a book launch event.
It’s also one of the reasons why I hoped I’d be able to hold my launch at American Twisters Gymnastics, my childhood gym. It was the birthplace of my confidence and my ultimate comfort zone. No one had passed judgment on me there in the past, and I knew no one would now either.
When I walked into the gym that Monday evening, my worries dissipated. It may not have been the same building I trained in over twenty years ago, but the smell of perspiration and chalk told me I was home. I looked at the gymnasts and saw in them my friends and myself. I knew that I had made the best decision to launch my book here and I was thrilled that the owner (and my former coach), Randy, allowed me to do so.
At 5:30, Randy stopped practice, pulled all the gymnasts on to the floor, and handed the microphone over to me to tell my story. I had spent the last two days preparing for this moment, memorizing my speech on the elliptical machine, in the shower, and while watching TV. I couldn’t focus on anything else. I wanted it to be perfect, but even more importantly, I wanted it to be natural.
The moment I took hold of that microphone I realized that I had nothing to worry about. Who better to tell my story than me? As I looked out into the crowd, I realized that not only could I make a difference, I would make a difference. I concluded my speech with giving some advice to everyone listening: always know who you are, never forget it, never quit, and always choose strong. When I said these words I made it a point to focus on the gymnasts, and I noticed the girls in the front row nodding in agreement to my words. That tiny bit of acknowledgement proved me to that I needed to continue to spread my message of choosing strength.
I feel like the world is a much more complicated place now than when I was a child. Hopefully, I imparted some wisdom to the crowd that day. Even if only one young gymnast remembers my advice, I’d still consider my talk to be successful.
When the night was almost over, Randy asked me if the launch met my expectations. Truthfully, I didn’t know what to expect for my first book launch but the night was perfectly me: simple, uncomplicated, raw, and full of so much love.
To Randy and American Twisters: thank you for such a wonderful experience. It felt so amazing to be back home.
To all my friends and family who came out (and some came a VERY long way to surprise me!): you are a huge reason why I have made it in this life. “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” – Wicked
To all the gymnasts who had no choice but to watch my presentation: I was told many years ago that practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Go into that gym every day and give it all you’ve got. Work hard, have respect for each other, and always choose strong.
And Jaisyn, I’ll be watching for you in 2024!