Saturday, March 22, 2008

Icebreaker Speech
Toastmasters Club
March 13, 2008


Why am I here in front of you right now? To introduce myself, deliver my first prepared speech? What brought me here? Why did I join Toastmasters? Master Chair, Fellow Toastmasters, most welcome guest this is the story I came here to tell you today. Why I am here.

I am here because of my journey to find what I want to do in this life. I have been on this journey for 15 years and it is only now that I am intentionally travelling this path. In the past 15 years, I have created distractions for myself. Distractions that I thought were solutions. Let me take you back 15 years ago when I started this journey.

Back in the Philippines, in 1993, on my third year in University I knew that I was in the wrong program. But with just one and a half years to graduate, I was not about to throw it all away and begin searching for the right thing for me. I thought I will finish my Accounting degree and then study something else later on. I had all the time in the world. I was only 19 years old.

I never got to do that. Instead, I created the first major distraction from my journey to finding myself. As soon as I graduated, I had my first daughter. Young and confused, I found myself married and raising a family. True enough as my parents said, the Accounting degree helped me get a good job. My husband then was still studying and he continued his studies for five more years after we got married. Where I got the patience to stay by his side while he was an unemployed, full-time, student husband is beyond me. It must be lust. Oh! I meant love. (Pardon me, English is my second language).

In the busyness of being a breadwinner for my husband and kid, I forgot my dislike for the line of work I was in. I forgot about my journey. I strived to climb higher in the corporate ladder to get better money which meant a more comfortable life. Hard as I tried to push it to the farthest end of my mind, I kept on thinking about it - the need to find what I should really be doing.

I did the most logical thing. I transferred jobs. I thought this was the solution. But in fact it was the second distraction I created. I left Accounting and moved to managing a McDonald's restaurant. I was happy and content for a while. The food business seemed to be an industry that's more essential to life. It was a totally different experience for me - running a store, managing people. I learned so many skills at McDonald's. I made sure that people got their burgers perfectly. That was customer service skills. I taught my crew to cook and serve the perfect burgers - coaching skills. I thought of ways our store can sell more burgers - marketing. I counted left over burgers in the freezer - Accounting Inventory. I reported to head office how many burgers we sold - Financial Accounting. I tried to find lost burgers - problem solving skills. Until after 3 years I got tired of burgers. I hated it. I could smell it on my skin and hair even when I was not at work.

Then I had my second daughter and the finances felt tighter. Yes, my husband was still studying, and no, he was not studying to be a doctor. It was just a four year program that he was trying to finish and he was on his 7th year.

My Accountant friends had more money and I had two daughters and a loving, unemployed, full-time student husband. I thought, forget about that journey. I moved back to Accounting. It was silly of me to leave it in the first place.

So I created the third distraction of my life. I worked for Procter & Gamble as a Regional Budget Analyst. P&G compensates employees very well. But for the compensation, they take a big part of your mind, of your life, if you were willing to give it. I did cost sharing for 32 companies in 13 countries. I travelled. I was contented for a few years.

Until it dawned on me that I still haven’t found what I was looking for. And it's been twelve years. What should I do with my life? I realized that what I thought were answers were merely distractions. I must concentrate on finding myself. Not knowing what else to do, and where else to go, I thought why not uproot my family, pack all our belongings, resign from our jobs (yes, my husband finally got a job), leave the country where we were born and raised, leave all our relatives and friends and move halfway across the world to Canada? Isn't that the grandest idea, the most exciting adventure ever?

It was definitely exciting until we got here. On our first month I knew that this was the most humungous distraction I have ever created. Yet there was no turning back. My journey to find myself did not even cross my mind. I was busy coping with this life I created for us. The minute we got here, I was bombarded with surprises. I was surprised that I could not get a job. I was the main breadwinner for my family for 12 years but here I earned nothing. My husband provided for us. That was a surprise! But that was just the beginning. I was surprised to learn that to eat 3 times a day, 3 meals needed to be cooked. Clothes need washing. The house needs cleaning. And most surprisingly, I was the only one to do all of that for the 5 of us. And this was my grand idea.

Now we have been in Canada for 3 years, we have settled a bit. I have a job. My kids can now feed themselves by raiding our pantry. I have wholeheartedly accepted that we will not die of a messy house and I have trained my husband to do the laundry. Of course I have created new distractions but I have taught myself to set my distractions aside.

A few months back I vowed to focus on looking for what I should do with my life. For starters, I read the book appropriately titled 'What Should I Do With My Life' by Po Bronson. I read 'What Color Is Your Parachute' by Richard Bolles. I read Alan Alda's 'Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself'. I read tons of books. All of them were entertaining but nothing really helped me find what I was looking for. I turned to the School Board's Adult Education Guide, to see if there is a class that interests me. Belly dancing and pole dancing sounds interesting but I thought they were not for me. My husband is very encouraging though.

Until one night a friend of mine lent me a book. It’s called 'Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life' by Dr Wayne Dyer. It was not an easy read, nor was it entertaining. It talked about things I already knew and believed in since I am a Catholic. But this book enlightened me. It basically told me to stop looking for what I need to do and instead appreciate and focus on what life has in store for me. It said I should step back and look at how life will unfold for me. To take opportunities as they come. And interestingly I was convinced by this idea.

When the Toastmasters brochure came with my employment package at Terasen Gas, I thought this might be a good thing for me. That is why I am here. I have found the answer to what I was looking for. The answer was not to look for it. Not to look for what I need to do with this life because it will come to me. The distractions I created were not actually distractions but they were part of my life unfolding before my eyes. They were steps to get me to where I need to be, in front of you today.

I can say that I am now contented. I feel very blessed. And I hope to feel this way for the rest of my life. But for good measure and just to be sure I don't forget, I have painted a reminder on my bedroom wall. In big bold red letters "If you are unhappy with your job, do not move to another country".

That my fellow toastmasters was my journey.