One of the things that I recently did was join Toastmasters...like I don't already have a lot going on. But, sometimes I find the more I have scheduled the more I have done.
Last Wednesday was my first speech. My Icebreaker. Pretty much its a speech about yourself. Here was mine it its written form. Its verbal version of it was somewhat different, but maintained most of the context:
9 of 27
I come from a very large family. There are 27 first cousins, we have 9 aunts and uncles. Out of those 27 I was number 9. I’m at the bottom of the oldest group -- there were three phases of cousins.
Coming from such a large family I learned to talk fast, talk loud and shyness got thrown out the door. Especially with games like truth or dare – I tended to take the dares. There’s a little bit of brutality involved as well, I developed a really thick skin to all the teasing from older cousins that hug grandma while proclaiming “Grandma’s mine!” just to make me cry. After a while I just shrugged it off because I knew better. I was grandma’s favorite, at least that’s what she said to me when we were alone.
When I was four years old we moved to NYC, first The Bronx and then Brooklyn, NY. That left me with less exposure to my family that lived in the mountains in Puerto Rico on what was my grandfathers old farm. I only got to see them during summer vacations. If I wasn’t toughened up already by having to battle it out with my cousins, Brooklyn finished off the last layer.
We grew up attending a large church where the kids became like my foster cousins. We played freeze tag and hand ball outside while the adults had their after church social hour. And again like with my family, I was in an environment where you were expected to stand up and speak out. Church plays, special Sunday services led by the kids made for a very extroverted group of kids.
Right before tenth grade I had to move back to Puerto Rico. My mom had passed away and I had no family in New York that could take care of me so I was shipped off to live with numbers, 8, 11 and 16 of 27 and their parents. I lived with my best friend, sister, cousin Michie, her brother and sister and my uncle and his wife in a small house on part of my grandfather’s old farm, across the street from one uncle, next door to an aunt and on the other side of the creek from my grandfather.
At that point my one and only goal became to get back to NY – no matter what. Waking up at 5 am to roosters crowing wasn’t what I wanted. I needed my city, I was tired of being number 9 of 27, I need to be me. I figured the way there was to be the 1st of 27 to go to college. When the time came I looked at college brochures and after a dizzying time I chose Syracuse University. Little did I know that it was 5 hours and 20 degrees colder and away from NYC. Plus an extra 3 feet of snow deeper.
My first year of college I was really homesick, as much as I wanted to get away from those Roosters I really did miss them.
I eventually moved back to Puerto Rico and worked as a teacher – the fast talking, lack of shyness, and dealing with a ton of people worked well there. But, after a year of teaching and some heartache I realized it wasn’t for me. I returned to the tundra of Syracuse – better the one you know than the one you don’t and went back to school for my master’s in information management – I was a computer nerd at heart.
I got a job in NYC as a computer programmer. The lonely job of a computer programmer; sitting in a cubicle all day in front of a computer while staring at four grey walls. Then heading home in the evening to an empty apartment – well my cat Midnight was there to greet me – and some Chinese takeout. I wasn’t happy in my job. It took some time and some major stumbles, including almost getting fired, but I finally landed at my current job. Managing Training and Support for our department.
All those years of being a part of such a large family have paid off. I have to deal with different personalities – some of them can be kid of brutal. Even on par with “Grandma’s mine!”, making the thick skin come in handy. I have to work as part of a team, and learn how to share the spotlight with them.
Part of what I enjoy the most now is my vacation time, the time that I get to be 9 of 27 again. Now there’s another 30 or more counting my cousin’s kids and add the spouses and well…
You better learn how to talk faster and louder – with all the new competition that’s coming around!