Sunday, April 1, 2012

International Speech Contest: In Search of My Destiny


I’ve been asked to represent my local club at the International Speech Contest.  It is the Area competition and I am the only member of the club to have completed 6 speeches so I am the obvious choice.  It is also the evaluation competition and I’ve volunteered to give that a go as well.  It is the day before my boss retires and I have a lot on my mind..but such is life.  Nicky, our club president comes along with me to support me even though she isn’t feeling the best.  The speech is meant to be an inspirational one.  I amend a speech that I gave at a commemoration for my dad a few years ago, and relate it to my own life.  I have titled it “In Search of My Destiny”……….. 

“To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation”! These words by Paulo Coelho resonated with me as I turned the pages of his most famous book - “The Alchemist”. It’s a book about a young shepherd boy who travels the world in search of his destiny only to return home having discovered the magic of listening to his heart. Fellow toastmasters and guest ….I hope my speech today will inspire you to go in search of your own destiny.  I will share with you some of the gems I have gleaned from this book and interweave it with examples from my own life.  Many of us might come to the end of our lives without ever having realized our true potential; too often we are prepared to “accept our fate” rather than pursue our destiny.

Coelho explains there are four reasons why we don’t follow our destiny. The first is because we are told from birth it is impossible. We often make choices that are safe and predictable because they reinforce our status in society rather than because they feed our passions.

Fellow toastmasters – my own life was initially not much different. I grew up in a conservative family in Sri Lanka. I went to high school, then studied engineering in university before leaving home for California in 1997. I was 25 years old. After a few years at Berkeley I met and married Dean who was an Englishman. It was perhaps the start of making unconventional choices and breaking free of tradition. Around that time, I shared with Dean an ambitious dream I had to spend three months on all 7 continents before I turned 50.

Coelho explains in the Alchemist that the second obstacle to pursuing our destiny is love. We fear our family may disapprove of our dreams and so we abandon them because we might lose the love of those close to us. But real love is about caring for someone as much as we care for ourselves. True love will never be an impediment but rather should add momentum to our journeys and truly give it wings!

Dean and I had a wonderful life in California. After graduating, we found jobs in the Bay Area and together we pursued the dream of discovering North America. We saw more of this amazingly beautiful continent that most Americans will in their lifetime.  Eventually we left America and had an idyllic two years on the road.  We travelled through western Europe, taught English in South Korea to make ends meet and then travelled through much of Asia before eventually migrating to Australia. We bought our first house together and continued our travels. We discovered Australia and made our first trip to South America. That was continent number 5.  I had two more to go…

Coelho writes the third obstacle to realizing our destiny is the fear of defeat. The risk of pursuing a dream and choosing to go down the road less travelled seems harder than sticking to the old familiar path.

It was shortly after we came back from South America that Dean shared with me the fact he wanted to travel the rest of his journey without me.  We had been together for 17 years!  I was shattered.  In 2006, two weeks before Christmas, he walked away from the home we had created together.  A few weeks after that, my dad was diagnosed with a form of leukaemia.  The following years were some of the hardest of my life. I could have gone for therapy but instead I went to Africa. It was my sixth continent. I went to Africa alone facing my fear of defeat - not willing to give up on a dream I voiced when I first broke free of tradition.

In 2009 I was living alone and struggling to cope. My house was robbed, my dad passed away, my divorce was finalized, and I part ways with the man I had been dating for the past year. Then one of my closest friends in SL passed away.  I felt that each time I tried to stand up, the rug was being pulled from under my feet.  Yet Coelho explains the secret of life is to fall down seven times and get up eight times.  I knew I had to keep pursuing my dream even though I wanted to creep into my shell and never peek out again.  Coelho also explains the fourth obstacle to not finding our destiny is the fear we have of actually realizing the dream we fought so hard to achieve. We look around us and feel we do not deserve to realize our dreams. We feel guilty about chasing our destiny.  Yet how can we inspire others to pursue their dreams if we don’t have the courage to pursue ours?

In 2010, I went in search of my seventh continent.  I went in search of Antarctica.  I could have waited till I found love again, till I retired or till I was rich but I decided to live in the NOW and to pursue my destiny with passion. I took a sabbatical to travel and volunteer around the world in search of love.  It was as I was leaving that my best friend Steven gave me The Alchemist as a parting gift.  I said goodbye not knowing he too was going through a sad time having just separated from his wife.

My story has a wonderful ending because I came home after a year of travelling not only having conquered my seventh continent before I turned 50, but having also found love again.  My treasure, was to come home having discovered that Steven (the friend who gave me this book), was destined to be my soul mate.  My father’s death helped me appreciate we have a limited time on earth and that we must live each day as if it were the only one we had.  My own life’s journey has taught me to believe in myself and to realize that when you truly pursue your destiny, everything else will follow.

I hope my journey has inspired you to go in search of your own destiny.  Such a journey will not only bring you personal happiness, it will inspire others to find their own calling and contribute to the Soul of our Universe.

Thank you.

PS – The speech was really well received and I got many compliments on the composition although it did not place.  A stranger walks up to me after the competition, compliments me on the speech and asks if it were all true :).  Yes..truth is indeed stranger than fiction..and this story is all true!

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