How four members pushed past barriers on the road to success.
This article is from the February 2016 edition of the Toastmaster magazine.
This is a compilation of member-written submissions.
A Marriage Transformed
Whitney Shayo, CC | Via Christi Club | Wichita, Kansas
After 10 years of marriage and the birth of our third child, I wanted a divorce.
The way I viewed my husband Pesa and our marriage had suddenly changed. A case of mild postpartum depression took over. As I saw it, everything he said and did was wrong during the first several months after our baby was born. As a homeschooling mom with a newborn, I was in the house a lot, isolated. My husband, however, was working six nights a week as a nurse. My daily combination of boredom and exhaustion made a bad situation worse.
Pesa belongs to Via Christi Toastmasters of Wichita, Kansas, but I knew very little about the club. One Wednesday evening, as he was getting ready to attend his meeting, I informed Pesa that I would fi le for divorce the next morning. After a lot of yelling on my part, and a lot of listening and apologizing on his, he suggested that we both go to the meeting.
For the first time, I met my husband’s fellow club members and learned how their meetings were structured. They invited me to participate in Table Topics, and I managed to come out of my shell and speak for a whopping 19 seconds.
From that week on, we made every Wednesday our official date night. Toastmasters came first, followed by dinner and then coffee at a local bookstore. Pesa is now president of the club and I currently serve as vice president membership. Serving as officers together has helped us appreciate the value of teamwork in our marriage as well. The skills acquired from Toastmasters can be applied to all areas of life.
Pesa and I now have a blog that provides encouragement for married couples, and I also provide coaching for moms who need support. Because of Toastmasters I speak with confidence, and I’m on a mission to spread cheer everywhere I go.
My Stand-Up Debut
September 15, 2015, was a memorable day for me. I debuted as a stand-up comedian at One Mic Stand, Malaysia’s original weekly stand-up comedy open mic show!
A couple weeks before my debut, I was at the train ticket counter when a colorful brochure caught my attention. I flipped it over and saw ‘One Mic Stand’—such a catchy phrase. Upon closer scrutiny, I realized that the club welcomed newbies, too.
I sent an email to the team to get a slot, and I received a positive reply very quickly. I was given three precious minutes to make people laugh. I had butterflies in my stomach, as this was my first time speaking outside of Toastmasters. However, that knot in my stomach loosened when I realized that even if the audience didn’t laugh, I still had my dad and two friends there to support me.
When it was my turn, I briefly looked at my dad and friends, smiled and began to share my jokes. The audience responded well, the ice had been broken and I was enjoying the attempt to make people laugh. I am grateful to One Mic Stand for giving me the opportunity to learn by doing. And a big thanks to Toastmasters for providing me a safe and supportive environment to hone my communication skills. Now I can take on a bigger stage to bring more joy to people!
No Longer Hiding
Ashley Nemeth, ACB | Indian Head Toastmasters | Indian Head, Saskatchewan, Canada
Before I joined Toastmasters, I was very shy around those whom I was not comfortable with—basically, anyone other than my family. I had a hard time at work and was very sensitive to anything my boss said to me. I hated going anywhere new and meeting new people.
I was always hiding a piece of me that I was embarrassed of, even though that piece was not always easy to hide. I am visually impaired. This made it awkward to meet new people because I couldn’t pick up on social cues from their facial expressions.
Shortly after joining the Indian Head Toastmasters club in 2013, I did a speech on my disability. It felt so good to have somewhere to go where I could be myself and not have to hide. I set a goal to do a speech every week and make it through all 10 projects of the Competent Communication manual.
During my journey, my vision started to deteriorate even more. Within a few months I quickly went from having fuzzy vision to not being able to see anything except for bright light. This was very hard to deal with, but with the help of Toastmasters I kept giving speeches as a way to help me cope. It made a world of difference to have that safe place to tell my story and have the support of others who never judged me.
The members of the Indian Head club continue to be there for me. When I got my first guide dog in 2014, they were some of my biggest cheerleaders. They gave me the confidence to be my own advocate. I have made a few public speaking appearances, talking about blindness and guide dogs, and have started a support group for seniors new to vision loss.
Two years ago I would have struggled to tell you my name was Ashley Nemeth.
Now I speak confidently and proudly wherever I am.
Exercising New Skills
Steven Tragash, ACB, ALB | Desert Toasters club | Palm Desert, California
I joined Toastmasters in January 2014 and am currently president of Desert Toasters in Palm Desert, California. As a former senior executive, I missed public speaking and leadership challenges. I joined specifically to hone my skills in delivering speeches of all kinds, and especially those that are extemporaneous.
Little did I know that a week after our District 12 Tall Tales Contest in 2014 that I would suffer the greatest challenge of my life: a stroke in the left hemisphere of my brain.
I didn’t share the experience with my Toastmasters colleagues as I progressed through my recovery. But the weekly meetings, interaction and speech preparation helped immensely in keeping me sharp and effective in my officer roles.
In addition to physical therapy, my neurologist recommended that I “exercise” my brain. Consequently, I began taking piano lessons and studying German; I have never been happier! I’ve scored the trifecta with the fantastic Toastmaster experience, an introduction to the world of music and studying another language and culture.
I have been undeterred since my stroke. Toastmasters has played a great and unexpected role in my life. I only wish I had started sooner.