Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, this evening I take my first step with you on the Toastmasters Pathway. Mr. President, Madam Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests.
Hello, my name is Emily and I am a photographer. Out of all the speeches we need to make as Toastmasters, this one is probably going to be the most personally challenging for me as I really hate talking about myself, I find it to be one of the most awkward and unnatural things to do, and I am far more comfortable chatting about literally anything else. By a show of hands, have you have ever felt nervous about speaking in public? It’s good to know I am not alone, Thank you. When I was six years old, my wonderful Grandmother, with whom I grew up, gave me my first camera to encourage me to leave everybody else’s alone, up until then, if I saw a camera I would pick it up and use it, or at least I tried to. Since that day cameras, both stills and video, have been my friend and my shield. My friend, as they are a constant companion and help me record all life’s adventures, through School, University, Work and beyond. My shield, because any time things became problematic, I would dive behind the viewfinder and limit my vision of the world to only what I could see through that small window. I could just focus on what I was looking at, distancing myself from whatever trouble was rumbling and by the time I was finished, hopefully, whatever drama had exploded would have either died down or moved on enough for me pop my head up again.
I have a skill for making a complete eejit of myself, fortunately, there were no cameras around to catch me one night in school during prep, when I walked across the floor of the library and back to my desk with my kilt stuck in the back of my tights! Thankfully, a friend let me know before I repeated my mistake. Or when I walked smack into a floor to ceiling window, reversed, and having not changed my course at all walked straight back into it, missing the door I was trying to walk out of by centimetres, much to everyone’s in the hotel bar’s amusement. You will be surprised to hear that no drink was involved at all that day! On another occasion, I had just completed my first round in an equestrian cross country, when having passed through the flags at the finishing line, slid off the horse into a big muddy puddle, leading the commentator to announce my “interesting finishing style” over the PA system and my teammate to look at me on the ground and ask, “what are you doing down there?”. To which I replied, “lying down”.
As Albert Einstein once said “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious” I too am a curious soul, who enjoys trying to improve themselves and learning new things. The most recent manifestation of this curiosity, is my attempt to learn how to play the guitar. My progress so far is that it now sounds more like a guitar and less like random noise, but, I am a long way away from it sounding like music. My cameras have once again been pressed into action, for me to have a record of hopefully any improvements in my skills, as they have in the past with various sports I have taken part in, including the half marathon I ran a few years ago.
One of my favourite quotes is “Not all those that wander are lost” by J.R.R Tolkien. It always reminds me that just because you take a more circuitous route in life, it does not prevent you from achieving your goals, it might just take a little bit longer to do so. It also makes me think that even when you are feeling down, you are not far from where you want to be. This is a useful thing for me to remember because, if there is a simple way and a complicated way to do something, I usually end up doing it the complicated way. Several years ago, I attended a Windsurfing Festival in Malahide. You may or may not be aware that there are two ways to get onto a windsurfer, the simple way is to mount it from the beach, or, the more difficult way is to get on it whiles in the sea. Unsurprisingly, I could only get on to the board whiles in the sea.
My cameras have brought me many opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. I have met famous people, photographed dogs for a dog rescue calendar, Weddings, prize winning gardens, captured people’s heroics on the sports field and many other situations. I was part of a team of Irish Twitter users that released a Christmas No. 1 a few years ago, in aid of the Neonatal Special Care Unit in Holles Street, it was a cover of ‘Winter Song’ written by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson. Sara kindly gave us permission to use it. The same team of Twitter users charted the next year, with a different song, but, we didn’t get near reaching No.1 again. If you had the misfortune to hear me sing, you would know that this was the only way I could ever reach No.1!
Thank you for your time and for listening to me, I will close with a quote.
“Life is like a camera. Focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives and if things don’t work out, take another shot.”
Thank you Mr. President, Madam Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests.