At the age of maybe 9, I was chosen to go up onto the stage. It was Mother’s Day at church, and the small congregation had their eyes on me. I was asked to answer a question by my pastor. The question was, “Do you think you are smarter than your mother? And why?”
A boy a year or two older than I didn’t hesitate when responding into the microphone that was held to his chin. “I am smarter than my mom. Why? Because I know how to do math.” The congregation laughed, and the boy hopped down from the stage back to his seat in the pew with his friends.
A teenage girl who was a little older than my oldest sister couldn’t answer the question without having to take pauses every few minutes because her emotions overcame her. I listened to the vulnerable girl answer the question. “My mother is the one who taught me all that I know. She is the smart one. And even though I let her down so many times, she is always patient and teaching me new things, loving me for me.” I watched as sparkling rivers of thankfulness streamed down her face. Her mother came up onto the stage and handed her a white kleenex. She received the tissue and pulled her mother’s arm into hers, and they hugged for a good minute as the audience awed and sniffled.
It was my turn. At this age, I was soft-spoken, more than I am now, shy and conservative. I wasn’t like my dad and second oldest sister who weren’t afraid of showing their emotions, expressing their gratitude, revealing their love. Heck, I wasn’t even good with my words or social skills, much like now.
The microphone touched my bottom lip. My lips didn’t move, but the only sound that I gave out was my heavy breathing, inhale and exhale. For a good 5 minutes, I let the congregation stare at me as I blankly stared back at them. I peaked to my mom’s eyes that twinkled and face that glowed bright in the crowd. She just smiled, revealing her pearly, perfect teeth as she always does. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I wasn’t lost for words; I knew exactly what to say. I was just afraid to say something not because it would’d been wrong or offensive, but simply because I was scared.
In my public speaking course during college, I discovered that public speaking is the most commonly shared fear amongst people. Fact: some (if not most) people are more afraid of public speaking than of heights, snakes, dying, etc. In this course, I learned a new word which oftenly describes me, anxious/anxiety. Some may say it is normal to feel nervous, but I get more than nervous. I freak out. I start shaking. My heart starts thumping so loud I could hear it in my ears. My face and ears boil up. Sometimes my vision becomes shaky. All of this happens before I approach a large audience, give a small speech, talk in a group, or even when confronting a single person. I don’t get anxious all the time. Some of my friends and family know me as the most outgoing, easy to talk to person. I can easily speak to strangers that I meet at the grocery stores or in the parking lot. I usually am the mediator when it comes to speaking on behalf of my non-English speaking parents.
However, sometimes to counter anxiety, other emotions drive me to conquer my greatest fear. To answer that question now, as I’ve learned and matured since 9, I’d say, “My mother is the most wisest person I’ve ever known. She is far more intelligent than I am. Her discernment and judgement are not of disaster but of prosperity and good. As her second youngest child, youngest daughter, of all her daughters, I have lived with her the longest and counting. I’ve seen what she had endured and overcame. Her characteristics rubs off on me. Her gentle hands that caress the hairs from my face. Her sharp tongue that scolded me when I did wrong. Her heart that has loved me unconditionally even before she knew me. I don’t think I could ever be as insightful, thoughtful, caring, loving, wisdomous as she.”