And Then I Lost

Yesterday was the third round of this year’s International Speech Contest, the Division C Contest.

I did my best. I was overtime. And then I wasn’t. And I almost started crying. The audience laughed a lot. Both men and women told me they cried afterwards. There were some amazing speeches tho. And I wasn’t in the top three.

This is my speech.

I’m flying along at forty thousand feet. I’m dressed in layers. I’m in the window seat. I’ve settled in for a long seven hour SLEEP.

Then I hear those magical words, “Chicken or Pasta”.

I’m WIDE AWAKE.

Chicken or pasta.

Do I want the healthier chicken or the TEMPTING pasta?

Easy, right?

Chicken or pasta is a simple question. Other questions can be a bit more complicated.

What should I study? What will my career be? Will I date that guy? Will I marry that girl? Do I rent or buy a house? Do I want children?

Contest Chair and fellow decision makers, if you have focus – if you know your way forward, making difficult decisions can be easier.

I grew up in the church.

My mother’s a preacher, my aunt’s a preacher, her partner’s a preacher, my godmother’s a preacher, my grandfather’s a preacher, his father’s a preacher and HIS FATHER is a preacher.

Because I grew up in the church, when i first heard, “What Would Jesus Do?”, it SPOKE to me.

Should I sleep in or go to church on Sunday morning?

well, What Would Jesus Do?

Should I give to charity?
Should I do missionary work?
Should I give into peer pressure to skip school or study hard for tomorrow’s test?

What Would Jesus Do?

And ALL MY PRAYERS WERE ANSWERED.

But.

As my faith changed, the question lost its impact.

I lost my way.

Years later I met Carly.

Carly was larger than life. She was fiercely strong, independent, outspoken – capable of anything. She was the kind of person who had short spiky unnaturally colored hair. The kind of person who rode a motorcycle. She was the kind of person who quit her day job and moved to Colorado so she could ski AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.

The question became, “What Would Carly Do?”

When I decided to leap out of a perfectly good airplane.
OF COURSE Carly signed up to jump with me.

She said, “I want to fall AS LONG AS POSSIBLE.” I said, “I want to pull the cord inside of the airplane.”

Who of you has gone skydiving?
Who of you has been on a rollercoaster?

IT’S NOTHING LIKE SKYDIVING.

It is more terrifying that anything you can possibly imagine. When I leapt, I panic’d and did the running man as I fell. I screamed because I thought I couldn’t breathe. I pulled that cord as soon as my coach said I could and NOT A SECOND LATER.

When I landed, Carly ran up and said, “That was AWESOME! I’m going to take my mom skydiving next year for her fiftieth birthday!” I said, “I support you. FROM THE GROUND.”

The next year she died.

Riding her motorcycle on the side of that mountain.

Carly died exactly as she lived. And that’s a beautiful thing.

But I lost my way again.

Decisions are more difficult when you lack focus, but not impossible.

I married my best friend. I changed careers. We bought a house. We moved to the Netherlands. We decided to have a child.

And during that pregnancy, I had an epiphany.

I realized, the question wasn’t What Would Jesus Do or What Would Carly Do, it’s What Would the Best Version of Myself Do? For my baby.

I ate healthier. I exercised. I drank plenty of water.

I found my way.

As an aside, I’d like to be clear, I’m not saying you have to be pregnant.

Even after my son was born and the hormones wore off, the focus of that question stayed with me:

What Would the Best Version of Myself Do?

Last year VERY last minute, I was invited to speak on a keynote panel. I HAD TO embrace this opportunity because the other people on the panel were HUGE NAMES in my field.

FOUR. AMAZING. PEOPLE. In my field.

And ME!

But there was no money.

Not only was it a last minute flight to Utah, but it was the end of the fiscal year. My minimal budget proposal of two thousand euros was rejected. I couldn’t go.

But.

What Would the Best Version of Myself Do?

I raised the money by asking other departments for help. I asked the conference for help. I asked EVERYONE for help. In the end I was able to raise about half. And cover the rest out of my own pocket.

I dressed in layers. I booked the window seat. And when the decision arrived to choose between chicken or pasta…

Well.

What Would You Do?

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