I Was Speechless, or The King of Latrine

“Why did you call me ‘The King of Latrine’?” I asked of our class valedictorian, begrudgingly admiring his wordplay after he signed my yearbook.

“Can’t you read?” he scoffed, “that’s ‘SATIRE,’ not ‘latrine.’”

In high school, I was willingly complicit. I’m the kid who made smart-alecky remarks in class, but quietly, just loud enough for the smarter-aleckier kid next to me to hear, say out loud, and get the laugh.

As far as I remember, I didn’t resent being the writer for someone else’s performance.

Apparently, my usefulness and sense of humor did not go unnoticed. My voice became louder, and I grew more willing to mouth off, audibly even, in class. More often out loud, never intentionally disrespectful (a couple teachers might disagree) and sometimes just a bit subversive as seen in the irreverent movie reviews that my friend Steve and I would write and publish in our school paper. And thanks to our faculty supervisor and her loose enough supervision, it even led me to be called to the Principal’s office.

Me, of all people!

As high school graduation drew closer, I got some shocking news. I was nominated by my classmates to be among the speakers at our graduation ceremony.

No way. I turned it down flat. Not a second thought.

Of course, I’m still thinking about it, over 40 years later.

Why did I say no?

I think it’s because I was stuck in my comfort zone. Through my teen years, my comfort zone expanded and I learned that I was still safe a few steps out, and both zones expanded.

But even so, I was not ready to take another step out, to speak in front of a huge group, a group who expected to be entertained and enlightened. Maybe that was it… in class, I didn’t have to prepare. Well, for homework, quizzes and exams, sure, but not for smart-aleckry and shenanigans. I had the element of surprise on my side. So I said no.

Well since then I have become more comfortable speaking in groups, as demanded by my profession in many ways.

I’m more willing to step out of my comfort zone, helping that to grow.

Another key lesson: if someone asks you to do something, that means, fundamentally, that they think you can do it.

They are willing to bet their own reputation that you can do it, do it well, and maybe even do it better in the future.

So say “yes.” Bet on yourself.

What do you think?