Last Thoughts

The following is my speech from International Speech Contest at Toastmasters (April 2016), for which I won the Second Place at the District level!

“Imagine a big explosion as you drive through the Holland Tunnel to Manhattan. Imagine witnessing the great symbols of American financial strength burn and collapse to the ground. Ashen faces walking north, crying, and holding one another, just walking as far as they could from the horror they had just witnessed. Imagine!

Well, I had a plan that day. The plan was to discover and roam around NY City and then have lunch with my Uncle at Windows on the World, on the 106th floor of the WTC. It had only been a few months since I arrived to the City that never sleeps, to pursue higher education. There was still a lot to be explored and seen and my Programming class wasn’t until late afternoon.

Instead I see, grown men fallen to their knees, sobbing. I took out my cell phone only realizing no circuit is available. I ran out of the car looking for a phone booth but there were long lines. The streets were silent without subways, taxis or buses; only sirens could be heard through the canyons of buildings.

I could see in everyone’s eyes, it was terror. Life was over.

I was one of the lucky ones who survived the unexpected. As I witnessed the Big Apple turning into ashes, I learned a lot that day.

First, that it all changes in an instant. As I am running from my car looking for a phone booth I thought about all the people I wanted to reach out to that I didn’t, all the ‘I love you’s’ I wanted to say but didn’t, all the hugs I wanted to give but didn’t. All the people I wanted to mend my relationships with, all the grudges I wanted to let go off but didn’t. I wanted to call my grandfather and tell him that I am sorry for yelling at you. I wanted to call my mom and tell her that I love you and thank you for loving me unconditionally. But there was just one phone booth and a loooooooong line. As I thought about that later on, I no longer want to postpone communicating my feelings to anyone.

The second thing I learned – and this is when I see people helping each other, strangers hugging other strangers, everyone racing to the closest hospital to donate blood – that the world is actually a great place! Often we talk about the negativity that has clouded the world. How disasters provoke selfishness and brutal survival-of-the-fittest competition, but here I was in the middle of downtown witnessing how in times of need, we, the human race, striking back against the selfishness and greed of our modern world, and helping out other beings. People were panicked and running for their survival, but if someone fell down, they didn’t get trampled, they were helped up. People were acting selflessly. As I donated blood that evening, I experienced a serene sense of satisfaction, a satisfaction that I did something good for the humanity, a satisfaction that is still lingering with me after 15 years, a satisfaction that cannot be described in words but can only be felt.

And the third thing I realized was that I didn’t want to be just another software engineer. I wanted to change lives. I wanted to mold lives. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to give back. I wanted to be an educator. And that’s what I became. An Educator. And everyday I have that opportunity to mold those young, nascent, minds into constructive, compassionate human beings. This is my way of making sure that there is no another 9/11

I was given the gift of a miracle, of not dying that day. I was given another gift, which was to be able to see into the future and come back and live differently. Lets say you face a life death experience, I hope not – but imagine, and how would you change? Imagine what would you get done after you realize life is unpredictable and you won’t be here forever.  Imagine the positive changes you would make within yourself and in your relationships. Imagine what the best self of you look like.

Imagine!

And now start working on it this very moment. For all we know there might not be a tomorrow!”

Advertisements

A New MINDSET

Below is my fourth Toastmaster speech – How to Say It

The aims for this speech project focus on your selection of words and phrases:

  • Choose words and grammar which communicate clearly.
  • Choose words and grammar which appeal to the senses.
  • Eliminate jargon.

brainIt was Friday afternoon. The school just ended and I was getting ready to go home – putting the papers in order, writing the warm up and homework for the next week on the board – just the usual stuff. When, one of my honors chem students came. I could see she was upset – teary eyes, long face.

What happened, Julia? Just a really bad day. History is one of my favorite subject and I got my midterm essay back today. I was expecting an A and instead got a C+. After class, headed back to my car and there’s a little yellow sticker on the windshield. It’s a parking ticket for $300. I called my best friend to get some sympathy and she sort of blew me off.

Well this is just an example of some situations that we face in everyday life. Now, what would be going through your head if you were Julia?

Maybe you’d think: “I’m so stupid to park somewhere where I’d get a ticket. I’m going to go home and mope. Life stinks.”
Or maybe you’d think “At least it was only a midterm and a C+ is a long way from an F… so I need to work harder to pull up the grade, be more careful parking, and talk with my friend to see if anything’s going on.”

The reason I bring up this story isn’t just to say “hey, don’t sweat the small stuff”. The point is to ask the question “why doesn’t it seem like small stuff to begin with?”

I read a book recently called Mindset by Carol Dweck that I think provides a clue to the answer. It describes two different beliefs that somebody can have about the world – one she calls a fixed mindset and the other a growth mindset. If you have a fixed mindset, you believe it’s not possible to change basic qualities like intelligence and personality. If you have a growth mindset, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you believe anybody can become an Einstein or Beethoven, but that you believe you can’t really know until you try.

One of the points she made that really resonated with me is the difference in how effort is viewed from each of the mindsets. From a fixed mindset, effort is a bad thing. If you get an A without effort that says you’re a really super smart person. If you spent a lot of effort, you’re not such a smart person. So ironically, people with a fixed mindset spend a lot of effort trying to appear as if they didn’t spend much effort.

People with fixed mindsets aren’t necessarily less confident but their confidence is more fragile. Researchers did a study where they took a group of employees learning computer skills. Half of the people were randomly put in a group that was told that computer skills were all a matter of how much natural ability they possessed and half of them were told that computer skills could be developed through practice. The people in the growth mindset group became more and more confident as they learned from mistakes and improved. The people in the fixed mindset group became less and less confident as they made mistakes. The more they learned the less confident they got. So it’s not just an innate quality of confidence, a different belief can lead you down one path or another.

So Why am I giving all this information to you?

Its because; skill is something that you can cultivate; not merely something you’re born with. You can become more creative, more intelligent, more athletic, more artistic and more successful by focusing on the process – NOT the outcome, or the goal.

“Instead of winning the championship – commit to the process of training like a champion. Instead of worrying about writing a best selling book – commit to the process of publishing your ideas on a consistent basis. Instead of worrying about losing 30 pounds -commit to the process of eating healthy every day.” – James Clear

Its not about the outcome, its about creating the identity of the type of person who gets to enjoy those results, who enjoys this journey of Growth!

 

 

Just LET it GO!

Below is my second Toastmaster speech. Speech Number 2 – Organize your speech.

The main objectives for this speech are:

  • Select an appropriate outline which allows listeners to easily follow and understand your speech.
  • Make your message clear, with supporting material directly contributing to the message.
  • Use appropriate transitions when moving from one idea to another.
  • Create a strong opening and conclusion
Time: Five to seven minutes:

323168_10150271032857623_6270188_o

I am going to start the way as a psychologist once did while teaching stress management to an audience.

How heavy is this glass of water?

(Wait for answers)

The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.

According to Eckart Tolle, “We create and maintain problems because they give us a sense of identity. Perhaps this explains why we often hold onto our pain far beyond its ability to serve us.”

15 years later also I remember that one time when my grandparents made my mom cry. It’s like a reel in my mind playing again and again and again reiterating that one day. And its been 15 years that I haven’t talked to them. I have talked to them physically, but not emotionally. That emotional connect is missing.

Am I trying. Yes I am. Am I trying hard enough. May be not.

I am not trying hard enough to JUST LET IT GO!

So how do you let things go?

I am certainly not expert at this but here are few tips that have made it easier for me to let go.

  1. Ask yourself helpful questions. Questions like: is this helping me or is it just some nonsense or something I’m reliving from the past? Or am I clinging to it because it’s what I have known for such a long time and it seems comfortable and safe even though it is holding me back?
  2. Give up “being right”. Realize that you may cling to things because they might make you feel right as you replay an argument or conflict over and over in your mind. It gives you a certain sense of satisfaction as the other person is wrong. But you have to give up that kind of satisfaction to move on.
  3. Let it go if it shows up again. In my experience it’s pretty common that what you let go shows up in your thoughts again. And that’s ok. Just let it go each time it shows up. After a while hopefully it will stop showing up.

We carry with us a lot of stuff. Not in our hands perhaps. But in our minds. It can become like we are carrying half the world on our back. Not very helpful. So we need to let go of things. Not only to move lighter and more freely. But also to be able to fully move forward in life.

To conclude I would like to quote Lao Tzu –

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be”

31 Things you should know about ME

An icebreaker is a special-purpose ship or boat designed to move and navigate through ice-covered waters. Or it’s the first nerve inducing speech that you have to do for Toastmasters…

Toastmasters is an international organization that helps people develop effective communication and leadership skills. I really want to hone my speaking skills because I have a dream of speaking professionally one day so I wanted to do a ‘speaking course’ and when I found out that the nearest Toastmasters club is only 10 minutes away,  I no longer had an excuse to hold my dream back.

According to www.sixminutes.com the Ice Breaker speech has three aims:

  1. Introduce yourself. Your ice breaker speech topic is you – something about your life, your job, your hobbies, your unique interests, your family, or any combination of these. You are an absolute authority on this topic, and everyone in the audience will learn something about you.
  2. Begin to conquer the fear of speaking in front of a group. It is nervewracking when speaking in front of a new group. If you feel this nervousness, remember that a Toastmaster audience is always supportive and understanding. Nobody is grading you, and nobody will mind if you stumble through 99 “Um”s and “Ah”s. If you get up, say something, and sit down, you have succeeded in this project.
  3. Provide a “base line” of your current strengths and weaknesses. Some new members have no public speaking experience, while others have years of presentations behind them. No matter where you fit into this spectrum, your goal is to improve from your starting point. This first speech helps club members gauge your current strengths so that they can make specific recommendations to help you improve.

So here’s a transcript of my speech. Hope you enjoy it!

11077949_10152694633237623_3478515520493814079_n31 Things you should know about ME

When I started writing this speech I thought I would talk about 31 things about ME. 31 because I am 31. Not my roles as a Mother, Wife or Daughter or Teacher but ME. How many of us feel that we have forgot our favorite color, dish or place because it has been replaced by our spouse’s or kid’s choice or a loved one’s choice?

(Audience shares)

But then while in the process of thinking all about these things about me, I realized that I am incomplete without these roles of mine. I would never had been a good cook if it wasn’t for my husband because the way to his heart goes through his stomach. I would not have been a good time manager if it wasn’t for my toddler son with whom I have to focus on prioritizing stuff and then discarding the less important things.

So my roles define me WHO I Am.

Its not that I lost myself but I found a new Myself!

And now let’s go through the list!

  1. I was born on March 21, 1984 in Delhi, India.
  2. I am the elder one, 6 years older to my brother.
  3. Moved to New York, US in 2001 where I did my undergrad in Biochemistry from Queens College and then Grad in Chemistry Education from Hunter College
  4. Got married in 2010 in Bangalore and then moved to California in 2011
  5. I have a two year old who keeps me on my toes.
  6. I loved being pregnant and sometimes I miss the baby bump.
  7. I was trained in classical music when I was in sixth grade.
  8. I have been playing harmonium for almost 23 years now.
  9. I sing and dance at home by myself when no one is watching.
  10. Bhangra is my mood elevator. No matter how tired or stressed I am, Bhangra cheers me up and gets me in the mood to dance.
  11. I have never broken a bone in my body, although I am terribly accident prone. Ask my husband!
  12. In the last 3 years I have switched 4 jobs. Don’t ask why!
  13. My first job was as a pharmacy technician at a Rite Aid Pharmacy in NY.
  14. I always wanted a career in public speaking. Can’t imagine myself in a cubicle the entire day.
  15. I still haven’t figured my dream job. I am sure one day I’ll figure it out.
  16. I love hugs. The greatest gift you can give someone else is your smile and your time to listen to them. A hug means more to me than most words. “I’m proud of you,” and a hug is enough to make my day.
  17. I can rarely say no to something sweet. I have a huge sweet tooth.
  18. Baking is my stress reliever.
  19. Cupcakes are my favorite.
  20. Zumba is my favorite kind of workout
  21. I love coffee, but didn’t start drinking until I started working as a teacher.
  22. Taco Bell is my go-to fast food joint, Chicken Crunch-wrap being my favorite
  23. I think that I can taste colors. Synesthesia. It’s a real thing. Look it up.
  24. My favorite color is blue. Any shade. It tastes delicious by the way.
  25. I can get really wrapped up in stories. Netflix has made this all to easy for me. Currently hooked on Private Practice.
  26. I started blogging few months back. I have a blog called ‘Meet Ashmeet’ – a space for my thoughts and reflections on life. You know that!
  27. I love calligraphy. I self taught myself that and I am pretty good at it.
  28. Card making is another self taught hobby of mine.
  29. ‘Photography’ is a hobby that I recently acquired – thanks to my husband! I love capturing moments, emotions, expressions and then cherishing them later. (Link to my Photography Post)
  30. I would love to take Photography classes one day to learn the technicalities of the camera.
  31. I am in love with living. I love being in the present moment and experiencing the world. Even though it gets gnarly at times, it’s because of the tough stuff that you get to the good stuff, and it’s worth it.

Well, this was just a glimpse about me. The fact is that I am a work in progress and I am trying to discover myself. And I am very hopeful. One day, I will be able to introduce myself completely.

Till then Thank you for reading!