The first Toastmasters speech to complete called the ‘Icebreaker’. It is to get you used to speaking to other Toastmasters, and for them to learn a bit about you. A few months ago I joined Creatively Speaking Toastmasters. It is aimed at writers, and I was instantly drawn to their blend of Toastmaster efficiency and warm creative atmosphere. I am excited that it will help me build on my public speaking skills!
I Am A Goat
“Don’t be a sheep and follow the flock. Be a goat and walk your own path.”
That is a statement from my mother I heard my entire life. Since I was a child, she instilled in me a need to find my own path, do what I felt was right for myself, and not what others expected of me. Tonight, I want to relate to you my journey as a little wonky goat, and how it shaped me into the person I am today.
As a young child, I was into fantasy. Reading books all day, drawing dragons on every surface I could leave a mark on, putting on plays with friends – these were happy times. It seemed magical, and the other kids were into it too, so it felt right. We were a motley group of goats. Wandering all over the place, finding ourselves.
As I got older, however, the herd grew more into a homogenized flock. Suddenly there were a heck of a lot more sheep, and a lot less of us weird goats. I was coding websites while other girls got crushes. UNCOOL. I wasn’t interested in soccer, pop-music or underage drinking like the others. SUPER UNCOOL. My style was gothic chic, while frosted tips and brand-name jeans were the fad. If you’re not familiar with what goth is, think of ‘The Adams Family’. On the hottest day of the year, I’d be in my full witch garb, velvet gloves and all. A literal ‘black sheep’, if you will. I stuck out, and the other kids knew it.
Once I became a teen, the adults around me praised me for my individuality. Didn’t I see how important finding my voice was? To be different built character, right?
But I had grown weary.
You see, the other young sheep didn’t take so kindly to my individuality. Bullying, torment and ridicule replaced happy hours of play. I struggled as an adolescent to ‘fit in’… because I didn’t want to. Yet, I also didn’t want the stigma and grief it caused me. I couldn’t understand why people cared so much about what I was doing differently. Why were they so cruel? Couldn’t they just stick to their own flock, and leave me be?
It was very painful; the struggle to build my identity caused me to be an outcast. Why was I sabotaging myself? It would have been easier to join the flock: sheepskin is safe and warm, after all. I could blend in and forget about pain. In the most uninventive way possible, mind you.
I came out the other side, though. I started seeing my peers for what they were: scared, emerging young adults. We were all trying to find ourselves, just some were unhappy with themselves. Sometimes those who cannot find happiness do not want to see it in others. Their sticks and stones would break my bones only if I let them. I was nearing 18, and realizing that I needed to leave the influence of the flock.
I channeled that revelation into a portfolio, applied, and was accepted into Art School. All that drawing and looking at things a bit differently had paid off. At NSCAD University, I met a whole new herd. Of goats, black sheep, purple cows, and blue chickens! A whole rainbow barnyard full of crazy animals, all encouraged to showcase their talents that made them original and of value to the world.
Four years ago, I vowed to give back to that barnyard that shaped me into the adult I am today. I started the East Coast Creative Collective, a monthly fellowship group for visual artists. It’s an inclusive space where professionals and students can be themselves, and celebrate what makes them unique. Mentorship, guidance and a sense of belonging thrives in this community.
Not surprisingly, often conversation at the meetup comes around to our childhoods. Many others have shared their experience of being the wonky goat in the herd. How they struggled to remain true to their artistic leanings, and how finding a herd they belonged to artistically helped them to feel accepted.
You could say that by leading the East Coast Creative Collective, I’ve become a goat herder of sorts. Only I don’t walk in front of my fellow goats; I walk beside them.
After all…. goats don’t follow the flock. We do our own thing.