I must have been barely 13 years old when I had to do a presentation at school.Before this, i would constantly look for any excuse to escape standing in front of an audience. But one cannot run away from something forever. This time there was no escape as everyone had to at least present something once before other pupils. Despite being a nervous wreck, i obviously wanted to impress. Somehow i thought i would do so by rolling two pieces of paper into two miniature balls, putting them under my vest hoping that they would fill the flat space on my chest; yes I made paper breasts. Lets use the colloquial term, ‘boobs’. I wanted to look older and more mature in front of the audience , and of course I also wanted to fit in with my peers. We all went through this complicated transition between childhood and adulthood, the transition best known as puberty. Just like any other teenager, I had emmence pressure to fit in, to belong.
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I was definitely not one of the so called “cool ” kids at that time , I was somewhat shy when it came to certain things and the only time the cool kids would talk to me would be when they wanted to copy my homework or when they needed help with school work.Moreover, many of my female friends and schoolmates had started to undergo the usual changes that are brought about by puberty. Of course, these would excite the boys who were even more confused by the changes they themselves were undergoing. Which meant the more round your hips were, or the more profound your litle developing boobs would be seen, the more likeable and intressting you were to the boys, or so we thought. Unfortunately for me, none of these things were happening to me at that time.I felt like I was being left behind.I was one of those whose bodies developed much later than the majority. Right now the story is totally different. 🙃
Anyway, on this fateful day, I had to do a short presentation about a book; I used to be in the library club (oh that was considered not cool back then). I was nervous and excited at the same time. I had mixed feelings, on one hand i was scared, on the other hand I thought it would be a chance to try and get noticed. If I try to look like the other girls,look older, then i might get to hangout with them, maybe i can get closer to being “cool”, i thought. Besides , there was a boy I fancied and I knew he would be part of the audience. He had only spoken to me once in that year, I can’t remember what we talked about, but I know my cheeks went hot, I could not manage to look at him in the eyes, and my legs kept drawing imaginary maps on the ground.
So there i was, feeling so proud of myself. I was in the girls’ bathroom.I checked to make sure my improvised boobs for the day were in place. Now that i think of it, i was rather foolish.First of all, how silly can one get? How could one go home on a Friday flat chested and appear on a Monday with two bumps on the chest and expect nobody to find it wierd? On top of that, i did not possess a bra because there was really nothing to hold. My chest was flat!!! So i decided to be creative, i wore a vest under my school uniform and tied a knot at the back so it could hold my new set of paper twins. I was a pretty smart child , but i think this day I forgot that there is something called gravity ,which clearly had different plans for me.Nevertheless, I applied an extra coat of lip gloss on my lips, checked to see that my kinky hair was neatly held in place in a pony tail, took a deep breath and made my way to the room where the presentation would take place. I added a slight bounce in my step, wore a soft smile, and prepared to amaze the audience with my new found knowledge. I wasn’t myself anymore, this was a new me, better than simple old me, a voice in my head echoed. Amidst whispers and murmurs from the audience, I started my presentation. All I could see were faces filled with awe, either from disbelief or confusion from what they were seeing.
I remember feeling a hot flush across my face as I felt the knot on my back get loose in the middle of my presentation. A cold chill ran down my spine as I watched the faces in front of me giggle with amusement. What was I going to do? Something told me to step outside but my feet stayed put as if glued to the ground. Maybe if I don’t move, the knot will hold till I finish, I tried to inwardly console myself. But gravity was not having it. Oh yes, the right side of my vest gave in and down went my right booby…..I helplessly felt it slide down my school uniform and watched it roll on the ground. The laughter that filled the room was enough to make one go deaf. I turned to the teacher in charge so I could excuse myself but he had problems of his own. The veins showing on his face revealed his struggle to contain his laughter, am sure he wanted to burst out loudly but his status as the teacher would not let him.
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So me and my one remaining loosely hanging boob walked out of the room in shame, tears streaming down my face. I think someone brought the other one later to me.As it happens it was the boy I liked. I was extremely embarassed. Of course I could not finish my presentation on that day. I vowed never to stand in front of an audience again.But a week later , after a heavy dose of ” counselling” and persuasion from close friends , i agreed to redo my presentation.Same audience, but this time I wasn’t going to play with fire. The sages weren’t wrong when they noted that once bitten, twice shy. This time it was 100 percent simple me.It wasn’t easy doing it again, but I aced it. Of course I was subject to casual teasing about my embarrassing moment after that, but that experience has served me a great deal.
When I look back at that memory, I realised that instead of seizing the moment and doing the presentation as best as I could, I started building up excuses and concentrated more on what others would think and how I would impress them most. I created the paper boobs and used them as an escape from reality. Unfortunately, just like my paper boobs fell, so do all mechanisms that we create and use as an excuse not to bring out the best in us.
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I have also learned that time and opportunity are one of the most precious gifts that a person can ever have. They are priceless!! And indeed very limited!!! Be it a new job, a new relationship, a new friendship or just a new experience, seize the moment. Don’t waste time building paper boobs either to escape the reality or to fit in and impress others. When they fall, it can be too late. I was lucky that i got a chance to redo my presentation, but that is not always the case in real life. That time or that opportunity might disappear within a split of a second. It’s time to let the paper boobs drop before life drops them for you. Easier said than done, but it is definitely worth a try.
Philly Yambo Makora
Facebook: Philly Susan Yambo.
- Cover photo : https://leadtail.com/b2b-marketer-perspectives/social-media-stage-fright/