By Olga Byrne.
They say that you will never know serendipity without taking a risk.
They say that destiny is not a matter of chance.
They say that flings are full of positive, fun experiences that will last a lifetime.
Are these statements true? Let me tell you what I have discovered and for that, I need to take you back to the summer of 2021…
I was in my second year of Toastmasters in a wonderful Irish Club - Fingal Toastmasters. I was a busy committee member and my personal growth after many years of neglect was getting a long over-due make-over. I had even decided to re-awaken my dream of becoming a stellar speaker – a big undertaking as I was starting with a skill set that was synonymous with a shipwreck “lost to the sands of time”.
Suddenly the world was plunged into a lockdown, and no one was sure what to do. However, for me, this turn of events proved to be quite the serendipitous affair! With the wizardry of Zoom and the global community of Toastmasters I glimpsed an opportunity. While most of the world stood still, I took one metaphorical leap and set my sights on distant shores - the worldwide web of Toastmasters! This journey could lead me to world speaking champions, titans of tech, PR gurus, compelling communicators, powerful orators – the list was endless. To me, this was a game-changer! Without a second thought my laptop became my ship, the least ugly wall in my house became my deck and the world of Toastmasters became my master and commander.
I started with some of the more well-known cities in the world, Vegas, Brisbane, New York, London, and Qatar! There was no sitting back as a visitor – as soon as you turned on that camera and unmuted your mic you were fair game for any role that was going – from the humble Wordmaster to the more tenacious role of Toastmaster. It is amazing how, when you keep throwing yourself in the deep end, you very quickly learn to first float and then to swim quite well. Amongst this eclectic mix of clubs, I found a magical Toastmaster community that encouraged me to keep raising my game – relentlessly! Little by little my skill as a communicator was beginning to look a little less shabby!
Then one summer day amidst all this action I came ashore at the beautiful seaside town of Worthing!
From the start, I knew Worthing Toastmasters was a special find and after one meeting I embarked upon a fully-fledged summer fling. As they say, opportunities do not make appointments and you must be ready when they arrive. With my recent forays, I was primed for action. There was no time to rest on my newly found laurels and enjoy the splendid speeches and masterful meetings; there were some heavy-duty roles to fill. Before I knew it, I had said yes to the crème de la crème of roles; that of Contest Chair for the club’s upcoming Humorous and Table Topics Contest. I had never undertaken such a pivotal piece but under the careful tutelage of a wonderfully supportive club I pulled it off and, in the process, had an absolute ball. This one substantial step set off a sequence of events that catapulted me forward in many aspects of my life and for this, I will be eternally grateful to Worthing Toastmasters.
Meanwhile, back in the non-virtual world, summer was fading, restrictions were lifting, and clubs were starting to move back to in-person. It was a lovely time for Worthing’s absent friends to reunite, but also bittersweet, as many of us had to say goodbye to our newfound community. However, there was hope! This clever club saw an excellent opportunity; it could carve out a niche for a growing community of online speakers that had arisen out of a pandemic and were not ready to be cast ashore.
From the chasm of a lockdown, a star was born – Sussex Online Speakers!
Sadly, the club’s meetings clashed with those of my home club. I had to watch from afar but on the odd occasion managed to sneak away and enjoy a few stolen moments. However, I was missing some memorable milestones: the stellar growth of the club - thanks to talented officers and members, the chartering of the club, and new members coming on board and sharing their stories. All I had left was an “affair to remember”.
Then one day the stars aligned! My home club Fingal and Sussex Online started meeting on alternate weeks – “a wink from destiny”. A triumphant turn of events! What began as a summer fling in a locked down world could now blossom into an interesting, dynamic, and exciting relationship!
And this, my reader, is where the story ends – full of promise! And what is the moral of this tale?