Friday, July 10, 2009

Toastmasters Speech No.10: What's Your Story

by Jun Roy

Our own stories have the power to change us. In what way, you might ask. Isn’t it that stories are rooted in the past, and that our past is already a settled matter? So how can stories change us? I’m not asking you to write your stories based on distant or recent memories. I’m talking about choosing the future stories that someday you want to tell to yourselves and to others.

If I ask you what your story today is, no amount of will power can change what just happened to you today. But what if I ask you, “What is your life story that you want to tell to yourself, to your children, and to others a year from now? “Or maybe tomorrow?” “Or next week?” “What aspects of your past stories you want to re-write so you can tell a better story later?” Such questions reveal the transforming power of our own stories.

When I was a kid, my life story is that of a born loser and failure. My circumstances conditioned me to think so. I have to walk two kilometers everyday with a pair of slippers just to go to high school. My mother was a small-time fish vendor whose income was barely enough to feed her six children for a day. My father was jobless. People often teased him for his eccentric behaviors. For what do you make of a man who carries everyday a bamboo stick, a hunting knife, and who brings his own chair to fetch his wife? And what do you make of a jobless husband who has the nerve to beat his wife who feeds him and his children whom he doesn’t feed? Crazy, you might say. And that’s exactly what people thought of him. I grew up believing that. I grew up being ashamed of him and of our condition. I grew up always wondering to the point of self-pity why others have shoes but not me, or why others eat hotdogs and apples but not us. I grew up constantly asking, “Why can’t I have a normal life?” And for many years, these questions continued to haunt me and they have become the theme and plot of my life story. My life story is a tragedy – that’s what I have come to believe.

But then, Francois Mauriac, the celebrated French author, is right when he said that, “the path of human beings never cross by chance.” My eldest brother, Felix, returned home like a prodigal son after living away from us for many years. That was 1985, and I was fourteen when I got the chance to know him really well. We lived in the same condition, his is even worse. But the stories I heard from him were completely different from mine. He was always telling stories in the future positive tense – how he plans to rise up from poverty. I never heard him speak about our family condition with a sense of hopelessness or regret. True enough, his .

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