My mouth refused to open. My legs quaked beneath me. My eyes darted around the audience. A sudden stillness enveloped me. Everything seemed peaceful, except for the uneven pounding in my chest, which pulsated in my ears. The pressure was unbearable. Closing my eyes, I inhaled deeply and tried to calm my escalating fear. Still, my lips would not budge. My face felt red-hot even as cold sweat soaked every inch of my body. I couldn't recite a single word of my three-word speech. I felt humiliated. My debut in the sixth-grade class production was a failure.
Growing up, I had endured a myriad of humiliations, but this one was different. This one happened in front of the entire school. I, like many other children, craved the spotlight yet also feared it. As I stood there, frozen into a block of ice, I felt defeated. Since speaking parts were mandatory, I had already received the most minuscule role in the entire play.
My role was quite simple: fifteen seconds of silly jumping on stage and projection of three words out into the audience. Yet no matter how many times I practiced my simple line, I bombed when my moment of fame arrived. Each time, I turned into a lanky lighthouse, my red face beaming for all to see. My mouth refused to open and send forth those three words. My failure cost me dearly. My peers teased me without mercy for weeks. My shame left a powerful imprint in my mind.
When I entered ninth grade, I was determined to break out of my shell and challenge my fear of public speaking. With encouragement from friends and family, I enrolled in a debate class. On the first day of the course, I didn't know what to expect, but...