Zero to somewhere- My Gavel journey so far…

By Gv. Peshala Prabhapoorna

Almost all of the regrets in my life are about things that I didn’t do, or opportunities that I let slip through my fingers. So, whenever I find myself having to make a decision between doing or not doing something significant, I keep chanting to myself ‘take the leap, worry about the landing later’. And sure enough, that’s what I was thinking when I submitted my name to compete in AIBGS (All Island Best Gavel Speaker) competition two weeks after I started my journey as a Gavelier of the University of Ruhuna Gavel Club. This is my story of how I survived jumping into the deep end having never taken a single swimming lesson.

My Gavel journey starts with an impulsive Instagram message I sent to the Ruhuna Gavel Club page. There was no tedious paperwork or a bunch of forms to fill, I only had to send a few basic details to join the club and become a member. A couple of days later I attended my first educational meeting and that’s when I realized how chill and fun being a part of this club is. Toastmaster of the day was Gv. Ravisha and the topic of the round robin session was ‘I’m the ghost of…’. When it was my turn to speak about my ghost personality, I said “I’m the ghost of a kid who never got to eat ice cream”, and then I went on to describe how I would steal ice cream whenever I see one and how I settled on haunting supermarkets where they have massive freezers filled with tubs of ice cream.

The comments, reactions and evaluations from other gaveliers made me feel like I was a really interesting person, even though I’m so far from being considered even remotely interesting. The feeling of an audience listening to what I was saying and being entertained by the contents of it was so refreshing and encouraging. After two weeks of basking in the coolness of being a part of the gavel club and attending educational meetings, I saw a message in the WhatsApp group inviting gaveliers to participate in the AIBGS contest. And my first thought was “okay, this is my chance to shine”, then my second thought was “wait, can I really do this”, and then I thought “It is going to be so embarrassing if I screw up”.‘Take the leap, worry about the landing later’, I started chanting my mantra in my head and I signed up for prepared speech and impromptu speech competitions.

I started preparing my prepared speech a week before the competition, but I put off practicing it until two days before the competition, because even the thought of doing it made me anxious. When I recorded myself delivering the speech, it ended up being eleven minutes long. So, me and the senior members who were helping me out started cutting and gouging parts out of the speech to avoid getting disqualified. Still, I couldn’t deliver the speech within the time limit, but this time the reason was that I kept forgetting the speech. During the week before the competition, I had meetings almost every day with Gv. Ravindu, Gv. Ravisha and Toastmaster Keshara to prepare for the impromptu speech as well. The most challenging part about that was that I kept forgetting the topic of the speech fifteen seconds after I started to speak. There were more than a couple of times where I just said, “Ah crap, I forgot the topic” in the middle of the speech and gave up. Each time that happened the gaveliers who were coaching me encouraged and directed me to find my own style of speaking.

The night before the competition me, Gv. Ravisha, Gv. Dilushi and Gv. Madushi were on a Zoom call that went on for hours, well past midnight to help me improve the delivery of my speech. There were so many times where they said “let’s act out this part like this…”, “Try doing it like this, it’ll keep the audience engaged” and I said “Oh that’s a great idea, I’ll try to do it”.

On the day of the competition, I did my impromptu speech first. I was feeling good after the delivery because I managed to not choke myself during the delivery. But I’m still not sure whether the topic was ‘Not all birds can fly high’ or ‘All birds can fly high’. Then after few hours the organisers drew lots to decide the order and I was the first one to pick a piece of paper. I was hoping to get a number somewhere in the middle, but my luck decided otherwise and gave me number 1. It was okay, because I had a bit of confidence in myself. I practiced the delivery 3 times during the break, with the other gaveliers who were representing our university. My little confidence was a result of me managing to finish the speech within the time limit and not screwing up bad enough for the audience to notice.

I was nervous, but I maintained my composure. The contest chair announced “Peshala Prabhapoorna, I’m Okay. I’m Okay, Peshala Prabhapoorna”. I got up and looked at the audience, ‘Take the leap, worry about the landing later…right?’ I asked myself. Seven minutes and some seconds passed. I only screwed up a couple of times, and I did most of the things that I planned on doing. I was overjoyed because I took the leap and the landing wasn’t too bad.

Even though I knew my performance wasn’t great, I allowed myself to have a little bit of hope to get selected for the finals. The next day the organizers announced the selection and I went through the post hoping to find my name in it, but it wasn’t there. I was happy because the other gaveliers who were representing our university were selected for the finals. It was a little disappointing that I couldn’t be up there as well but I felt proud about being a part of that team.

A month and a half later I can honestly say that sending that Instagram message was one of the best decisions I have taken in my life so far. The feeling you get when an audience is eagerly listening to what you have to say is something that I can’t exactly put into words, but I can say that it definitely is awesome. I have nothing but good things to say about my experience of being a part of this club.

This is my story of how I went from 0 to somewhere with the help of so many senior gaveliers. Now every week I look forward to spending my Saturday evening with the Gavel Club.

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