My experience at the 2018 International Convention can be described in one word: wonder.
It started with wondering how I had gotten in my position in the first place. I left for Chicago in tears. Once my boarding pass was scanned, it hit me. After a summer of endless revisions and practice, I was one flight away from competing in the semifinals for the first time.
I wondered if I had done enough. I wondered if I would fail. I wondered why I didn’t bring any tissues with me.
Those doubts were mixed with reverence for representing District 26 to the world. I am glad I felt overwhelmed by the joy, pride, and fear of it all because it made me feel with a rawness that had been smoothed down by rehearsals.
The wondering continued at the contestant briefing the next day. There were a lot of process questions: what to do when, where, and how. My wonder turned to wonderment during the opening ceremonies. I thought about practicing instead, but this was my first convention, and I wanted to experience it fully. Watching over 100 countries join in unity and celebration moved my soul.
Amidst the clapping and cheering I thought, “No matter what happens now, this was worth it.”
The semifinal contest took place the following night. I walked onto the stage with one goal: to deliver the best speech I could. For me, there was no down side. If I won, I moved on to the championship. If not, I could relax and enjoy the rest of the weekend. I gladly relaxed!
I returned from Chicago starry-eyed. I came for the competition but left with much more.
I formed new friendships, strengthened old ones, and witnessed history as women swept the championship for the first time in 87 years. Meeting well-known Toastmasters in person, including Pres Vasilev, my coach, was exciting. It reminded me of how our words can make us feel connected even without meeting, which made those face-to-face moments incredibly special.
I joined Toastmasters out of curiosity. This convention reminded me why I stay: to witness people from all over the world gather peacefully and openly, to hear messages that remind us of what it means to be beautifully and brokenly human, to focus on what connects us instead of what drives us apart. That is why I am a Toastmaster. I can’t thank the members and clubs enough, who supported and encouraged me so well during my journey this year. I did this for you.
My experience at the 2018 International Convention can be described in one word: wonder. I had a wonderful time.
Kayse Loveless, CC
VP of Education Aurorators Toastmasters Club