To my college freshman self-crying her eyes out about mispronouncing a French absurdist's name,
Written by Talan Tyminski
When you were young you used to throw yourself in the air with hopes of landing on a thin blade. As a figure skater, things were simple- landing on the blade was a success. Landing on the ice was a painful failure. But life isn’t a double axel. There is not an accepted definition of success. Your definition is being seen as the best. As you run from mediocrity, you miss those you love beaming with pride for all that you have already accomplished.
Your journey has been long. After years of being corrected when you spoke by your speech therapist, you signed up for a debate class because your sister told you not to. The final requirement was attending a tournament. You put it off until the end of the semester. When you finally gave, in you were hooked. People gave you trophies as a signifier of success but you wanted more. You set your sights on a national championship and were frustrated that your coaches wouldn’t push you harder. You went to a college with a reputation for making champions.
In college, you threw yourself into the speech team. As your peers got praise from coaches you grew resentful. You were learning a whole new style of speaking, one that required you to train your brain to process a quotation in less than a minute and prepare a five-minute speech on the fly. Every coaching session felt like a beating because retraining your brain is a slow process.
Nationals rolled around. You headed down to Texas, the world’s way of foreshadowing. When they released the names of the quarterfinalists- the top 24 competitors in the nation- there was your name. You flew right to semi-finals, top 12 in the nation. The round started and you flipped over the quotation.
“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal” by Albert Camus.
You won’t remember that speech. You will remember the frustration of stumbling over your words. You will remember your stomach churning when you heard someone else read the authors name, and realize that it is not pronounced “cam-us” as you said but rather “cam-moo.” And you will remember the heartache of not seeing your name on that national final round poster.
Spoiler- you never get the national title you are chasing. You will come close but, you don’t get the single thing you have defined your self-worth on for eight years. That title is not what you are searching for. Your name printed in a book people throw away and a slightly larger trophy does not mean you have succeeded. You built a legacy. You constructed a strong and independent woman out of a shy and anxious little girl. You made lifelong friends and even met your future husband along the way. Most importantly, you touched people’s lives. Your definition of success is not the same as others. No one is disappointed in you. Wipe away those tears- you have an incredible woman to become.
Someone with that French absurdist’s words tattooed on her ribs as a reminder of the woman she has become.
Talan is a mid-western transplant that swapped snow for sunshine and moved to Texas to get her M.A. in communication studies from Texas State. After graduation, she fell in love with Austin and decided to stay. When she was young Talan was a competitive figure skater but in college switched her ice skates for killer suits and was the national runner-up in informative and impromptu speaking. She currently works at a government consulting firm and recently started her own business, Pitch, a public speaking coaching service for young professionals. Talan has two dogs that she loves more than anything, a one-eyed pug named Mad-eye Moody and a border collie mix named cookie monster.