Little voice

I have a couple of theories as to why I’m a fast talker. One is that I spent too much of my earlier life being needlessly quiet, and I am now trying to make up for it. There was a long time, I think, when I was simply socially awkward, and suffered from a severe insecurity that manifested itself in my not knowing how to talk to people. It didn’t mean I had nothing to say, as my brain has always been overactive, but I was pretty sure that nobody cared about my thoughts. Now that I am out in the world, wanting to share myself, I cram my words into the available spaces, even stepping over other people’s words at times. The interruption is a habit that I’ve learned to control. The speed of my talking is something I’m still working on. In everyday life, and particularly while I’m at work, I moderate my speech to make sure that I’m being understood.

My other theory is related to the first. In short, it is that speaking frightens me. This is mostly obviously true when I’m speaking in front of others. Whenever I’ve got the floor, so to speak, I am subconsciously obsessed with giving it back as soon as possible. Naturally, the best way to do that is to rush through my words without caring about their impact. And I don’t really want to think about their impact. You see, I’ve always been afraid to risk being seen by the world. If I set forth my words with some sense of conviction, if I don’t soften them with self-deprecation or garble them in my hurry to reach the end, then I might actually appear to have ideas and opinions and a personality. Then, I’m open to being critiqued and disliked—two things that hurt my fragile ego. So I usually speak about myself in a rushed manner, assuming that my audience is as eager as I am for me to finish.

Being on stage in a few weeks, reading excerpts from my journal at “Mortified,” is going to be a huge challenge. I haven’t spoken in front of a crowd like that since my high school graduation ceremony. (You can bet your ass I rushed through that graduation speech. I can’t even watch the video of it, out of embarrassment.) The producers I’m working with encouraged me to practice reading at a slower rate, and assured me that it would feel odd at first. They were right. It feels like I’m faking it, somehow, or that I’m sounding too serious. I don’t know how to carry over the inflections I use in my typical rapid speech; I have to pay much more attention to what my voice is doing. But this is one case in which I can be sure of my audience’s interest: After all, they will have paid to attend the performance. I could deal with that fact by putting even more pressure on myself, worrying even more about being judged harshly. Instead, I think I’ll turn it around and tell myself that maybe I’ve got a voice that’s worth being heard.

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