Yesterday, I presented my first ice breaker speech at Toastmasters. Here’s the long-version of my speech (significantly cut it down because it exceeded the required 6 minutes, and you know how strict Toastmasters are when it comes to time) for your reading pleasure.
People have asked me why I joined Toastmasters. Mark in particular, scratches his head in surprise, wondering aloud why the heck I’d pay an organization just to torture myself by giving public speeches. Well, my answer to that is, “No pain, no gain.” I’m a lazy person and I know that I won’t give speeches unless necessary, so Toastmasters forces me to stand in front of people and talk. Hopefully, after a couple of times, I’ll be so at home in front of an audience that I can do this in a heartbeat.
So sit back, relax and enjoy! Till tomorrow!
Debunking the Myth
People often judge a book by its cover. They see who I am, and instantly come up with the impression that I’m this wild independent woman, who’s always out partying and having fun. Many people also think I’m far too good to be true. Hence, I’ve here today to debunk several of these myths and shed more light on who I really am.
When people look at me, they see this outgoing woman with a wild passion for life. They think that I’m always out doing things, partying, having fun and going home late. That’s why many people are surprised when they discover that I am the product of super strict parents who still think that their 25-year old daughter is 8.
Believe it or not, even after three years in Taipei, I still have to write to my parents every single weekday. There was once when I missed a day, and my worried parents hurriedly called to ask if I was alive and okay. When I heard the anxiousness in my mother’s voice, I vowed never to let them worry again. I think I have written them over a 1,000 emails since I got here.
To give you an idea on how strict my parents were, even at 21 years old, I had a strict 11 o’clock curfew back in Manila. It doesn’t matter if there was traffic or if I was a mere 5 minutes late, if I wasn’t home at 11 o’clock sharp, my father would give me a three hour sermon, repeating over and over my mistakes of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
I used to ask my mom why my father is too strict and demanding on us. My mom replied, “This is good training for you. Your dad does this because he loves you. Believe it or not, the world will be harsh on you, and unlike dad, they are not looking out for your well-being. Dad is giving you a sermon so that you can better handle the world. Once you can handle dad, you can handle anyone else. You can take a beating and still stand up strong. If he doesn’t discipline you, who else will?”
It’s true. Because I was raised by a strict dad, I grew up to be more grounded than other kids. And because he had high expectations of us, I pushed myself harder and became a stronger person for it.
A second myth I’d like to debunk is that I’m this smart, independent woman living abroad who can take care of herself very well. Little do they know that I’m totally helpless around the house. It’s a lot better now, but believe it or not, when I first arrived in Taipei, I have never even operated a washing machine or a vacuum cleaner. This was because like so many middle-class Chinese families back home in the Philippines, I grew up with maids. There was always someone who would cook for us, one to do our laundry and another to clean the house.
This wasn’t uncommon. Because labor is so cheap back home at an average of NT$4,000 a month for a maid, it was more practical to hire a maid than waste a lot of time doing things yourself. And at home, my parents would rather have us study and get good grades than waste our time doing household chores.
Hence, when I first arrived in Taipei, I had no idea how to do even the simplest household tasks. Imagine this, my mom sent me a 3-page long email with step-by-step instructions and illustrations on how to hand-wash my clothes. It was that bad. One hard lesson was when I mixed in the colors and the whites and turned my favorite beige shirt pink by mistake. It was a lesson I vowed never to repeat again.
Another example was not cleaning my bathroom. In my entire life, nobody ever told me that the bathroom needed to be cleaned. So, when I first arrived in Taipei, I didn’t clean my bathroom for over eight months. It got so bad that when I went home for a visit, and showed my mother pictures of my room and bathroom, she totally freaked out when she saw how dirty and grimy my bathroom was. But I didn’t know, it’s like you’re so used to the dirt that you never realize that it needs cleaning.
She immediately told me to go to the local supermarket, buy a bathroom cleaner and use it the same night I got back to Taipei. My gosh, I was surprised. All that dirt and grime instantly came off, and my bathroom was squeaky clean afterwards. It’s funny now I remember how disgusted my mom was when I proudly showed her my pictures.
The last misconception that I’d like to debunk is that I’m too happy, too optimistic and too content to be genuine. My best guy friend Mike tells me this, “When I first met you, I thought you were very superficial. I mean, nobody can be that happy all the time. I thought you were popping Prozac (the happy pill) to keep up with your level of energy.”
So I asked him, “What about now?”
Well,” he answered. “As I got to know you better, I did discover that the initial you, was actually the real you!” It’s true, people think I’m putting on a happy, sociable face and being high energy just because I’m the chairwoman of CAPT. What they don’t realize was that even outside CAPT, I’m a happy person who’s passionate about her life. I’ve always been a half-glass full type of a person.
Of course, I occasionally do get sad and cry, but I rise back up pretty quickly. I think it’s because my parents taught us about knowing how to set your priorities — the most important are health, your family and your friends. Money was never a big issue in my family. My father would often introduce us to his wealthy friends, bring us to see their palatial homes and big swimming pools, and then tell us afterwards the real story behind their money and riches. In one family, their spoiled grandson shot himself in the head, while in the other, the kids were all fighting for the inheritance and this was even before the father had passed away.
When I was in my teens, I became mysteriously sick and was hospitalized for a week. After I got better, my father took me aside and told me, “It doesn’t really matter if you have lots of money. If he’s sick, even the richest man has nothing.” My father taught me how to prioritize my life — take care of your body first, and then, value those who love you.
People will always have misconceptions about someone, and instantly judge that person based on these impressions. Sophocles had said, “What people believe prevails over the truth.” Hence, I’d like to give you the truth about me, and it’s my hope that by now, and in future speeches, you my friends, would have a better understanding on who I am.
Toastmaster of the Evening.