When I was 5 years old, I won Little Miss Talent in one of those grade school beauty pageants. It was a pretty big deal since I was competing with mostly older girls, some over twice my age. It wasn’t much of a surprise either; I was a little kid in rags, begging for alms and crying for vengeance in a shortened declamation piece – who doesn’t like rooting for the underdog? My performance was so good no one cared to notice how my discomfort with wearing lipstick made me look like a goldfish gasping for breath. That win sealed my fate for the next 3 years or so, I was repeatedly requested to repeat said piece sans costume – on stage, at parties, even at my parents’ friends’ doorsteps.
By the time I was in high school, I had an unexplainable case of stage fright. I can still sing, dance and interpret literary pieces in groups in front of a crowd, but give me a microphone and a script and I’m colder than a freezer in Baguio in the middle of December, before global warming messed with the seasons as we knew it. One time, I had to deliver a monologue in English class and I just froze. I was terrified to my tear glands but much worse, my writer self was disappointed –that was one well-written monologue gone to waste. I guess you could say early adolescence did its damage and took away my confidence (or my need to be in the limelight) but not my fascination with telling a story.
From comic strips to juvenile short stories, poems and scripts, my arsenal of self-proclaimed-literary-gems expanded to more jaded free verse, lyrics and puerile journal entries. Thankfully, our journalism teacher’s writing tips and exercises not only gave my complaining a more justifiable purpose, his discussions also changed my perspective of writing from being an outlet to being an instrument. Since then, I wrote not just to rant, but to suggest change. It was inspiring to write with meaning, even if probably less than 5 people will ever read your work. Though I don’t have the grades to show for it, journalism class taught me discipline, to wake up at 3 in the morning either to meet a deadline or write for leisure. Unfortunately, as my writing prowess (the ego in this piece already weighs so heavily, I don’t see the point of holding back any more ill-appointed praise) grew, my aversion to speaking in public got worse.
College, in a way, was a welcome reprieve. In class, one did not need to stand up during recitation – being rid of the pressure of people looking made my life a lot easier. By not using scripts, I also got rid of the pressure of having to remember precise sentences and made my presentations more spontaneous. I also learned to focus only on one person, usually the teacher, whenever I had to speak in front of class – by doing so, I trick myself into thinking I’m talking only to one person or a small group, something I never had problems with. Of course my solution wasn’t perfect, the fear was still there and my self-assurance unravelled in unfamiliar occasions.
Unfortunately, changing priorities and a financially constrained college paper also limited my writing to one to two articles per semester. As I learned to cope with my problem with the spoken word, my ability to chronicle my thoughts and experiences stagnated and deteriorated. Ah, the damage that laziness and making excuses could do. For the longest time I was a terrible speaker, for the past few months I couldn’t even write anything I’d be proud to claim as my own.
Will I stand for this? Will I simply accept this shell of a person with nothing to be proud of but a CPA license? Of course not.
To the forces that rule the universe I now make this promise, to churn out at least one completed piece per week. It need not be relevant, it need not be amazing. Right now I just need to get myself back on the writing bandwagon where I know I’ve always belonged. So help me, universe.