Eminem's lyrics to "Lose Yourself," particularly the beginning, are on my mind a great deal. "Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted, in one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip? Yo. His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy . . . " This is true when I'm just about ready to be introduced to a room full of students, parents, and teachers as a motivational speaker for younger students, talking about my expectations of them as they navigate high school. Truth be told, at the moment of my introduction to a crowd, I feel like I have one shot to leave a lasting impression and mark on the audience.
Speaking to a crowd of students, motivating and inspiring them to think long and hard about the decisions they make, inside and outside of school, is a big responsibility. Why should they listen to me? Who is this guy from the University of Rochester, and what's so special about him that he's here in my auditorium, with the rest of my classmates, when I should be in class? Might you feel the anxiousness I feel when I stare out into a room of 50, 200, 750 students?
Based on feedback from the audience, I believe so far I have been successful. Like rap stars and other artists, I get hyped when I am in the limelight. I am on stage because I've made something of myself and I have a legitimate message to share. Whether it's at a school district on Long Island, in Queens, the Bronx, or Rochester, the feedback from the audience informs me that I have done what was asked of me: help our students understand the things they need to do in order to make admission to top colleges like Rochester a reality. By being funny, incorporating Spanish into my speech, talking about a walk from Harlem 125th to 96th Street, and bringing in a dance move or two by Michael Jackson, I can feel the audience responding to what I am saying.
Like Eminem's character in this particular song, I have one shot. I tell myself it's the reason that I am there. It's the reason why I do what I do as a professional. And I am anxious, I feel butterflies, and I am shaking prior to getting up on stage and performing for the crowd. Have you had any experiences like this? I hope you do. It gives my life meaning.