Have you been there? – Jocelyn Tyson

Have you been there? – Jocelyn Tyson

thomas August 22, 2023

Taking a deep breath, she begins, in a tense tone, even as her shoulder and limbs flare out: “It was the summer of 2021…”. Gone is the cordiality in her “Thank you contest chair”. And you anticipate something serious on its way.  She tells the story of how she picked an “epic” from her bucket list, to lift her spirits. Her pick is, she announces in a shrill whisper, as if a film:Triathlon. First laugh at 13 seconds!Why? What epic did the audience expect?A polar expedition?

Since she likes challenges and sports in particular, from her right appears one protagonist: her Inner Go-getter. Her body sways, nay quivers in anticipation, even as she utters a colloquialism in excitement. Yet, out of swim, bike and run, she fears/hates the first two disciplines, doesn’t particularly love the thirdand sure enough, from her left appears her Inner Critic.

The protagonists take their positions. The two warring sides, she calls them. “A decision has to be made. One says yes, the others say no. Have you been there?”, she asks.

“Have you been there” simply means, what speakers often ask in the midst of stories: “have you had a similar experience?”That is certainly not the theme or the message! The title doesn’t communicate a message. It quizzes, at best. Worth remembering when choosing a speech title next time!

Jocelyn signs up for the triathlon. After 8 months of training every day, sheis ready, starting with the swimming event. Other competitors take the plunge but she just couldn’t because, unlike thedaily-cleaned-and-sanitised, crystal-clear water in her practice pool, the lake is worse than muddy – its dirty and dark. Yuk!  The warring sides are in action. “One says yes, the other says no. Have you been there?”(Her foundation phrase in short, with the title embedded: OSY.TOSN. HYBT? Smart crafting!)So she turns her back to the dirty lake and even as we expect her to run away, shetakes the plunge backwards. Most unexpected solution, and applauded for both the aspects! She offers her side profile to demonstrate her swim without rhythm and grace, which she says was no swim, it was survival!

That is a hell of a swim, which she conveys with her high pitch, high velocity utterances and vigorous body actions andcontortions plus vibrating, quivering limbs. Mind over muscles! More expressive than facial expressions, in a large hall!

As she clutches on to a floating canoeto keep head above water, a race official suggest she better quit. Back to OSY.TOSN.. Go getter wins.

By the time she reaches the bank,her heart is on fire she is coughing out water (Dirty water. She doesn’t say that. But we know).Jocelynfalls onto her bike for the next leg.

Now the final battle: Inner critic says: “You are exhausted, still have a third to do”. Go-getter says:You only have a third to do”. (How many of us can resist the temptation of sneaking in the glass half full, half empty homily?) Finally, the race is done.“This race took a lot out of me but I took a lot more out of it”. Cryptic summary!

The only quotein the entire speech is from Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right” What matters is what’s within you”, she continues.“Look deep within and find your Go-getter.See how far it can push you.  I’ve been there. Have you?”

The speech ends with the speech topic, truncated. She knows hers is by now a shared experience!

Some observations

One can argue about her selection of life situations where choices have to be made. Are they the most universal, covering the maximum members of the universe? There must be reasons for the selection a speaker makes.

Inferences are to be inferred. Jocelyn doesn’t pontificate about the point of inflection. After showing a judge’s objectivity in the long war, there is no escaping subjectivity in decision making. She has to seek and choose the Go getter. That is life. Nor does she squeeze the metaphor to draw a parallel between the discouraging race officials and the nay sayers in real life. In fact, in a few places, the secondary level logic is not stated, letting the audience feel gratified at the unaided discovery. That also lets the story flow uninterrupted. Credit for things she could have said, but didn’t!

Simple themes.If we reflect about the winning speeches over the years,many themes are commonplace. Ramona Smith’s speech titledStill standing, is about grit. Don’t give up, all parents tell children, even before their teens. Mike Carr said, “The victory is not in the result, its in trying” – fairly common thought, though not likely to be propagated by most parents!… Variety Price’s story is about picking oneself up from the pits and self-pity, discovering one’s true worth. Dim Junior and Aaron Beverly had unique themes, it must be conceded.

Metaphor. The fight between positivity and negativity is no recent discovery. Many metaphors work. Tug of war. Boxing bout. Roman gladiators…. In the Indian tradition, there is the epic battle of Kurukshetra. Yet, for universal communication, sports wins hands down. There is enough prior knowledge. Itsdemonstrable, hence visible. Its high energy, exciting. Didn’t Ramona Smith clinch it with boxing, not so long ago?.

Speakers made for speeches?Purists may frown upon this, but truth be told, a speech is a speech plus the speaker, including the dress, his/her visual and audio personality… all the energy forms a speaker emits that hit the audience.

Entering the stage, Darren LaCroix fell smack on his face – and hooting followed! Imagine anobesespeaker: he would have stayed down longer than the script envisaged!Or, imagine a feeble voice enacting Beauty and the Beast in Mark Brown’s A second chance!

Some speeches are made for some speakers. Some speakers make their speeches. Yet, I have heard it said: evaluate the speech. Not the speaker.Not so sure…

Lithe, with a frame of high tensile strength, Jocelynis made forsports. Try crouch walking at three-fourth of one’s normal height! Tryback stroke, walking back! Clearly, her athletic story, real as I believe it was, is sublimated and flavoured by the exhilaration of exhaustion that passionate sporting generates. 

Sports is her chosen alphabet. And adrenalin, the grammar.

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