I, Scott Backovich, am the worst youth speaker I know.
Sadly, the above statement is 100% accurate (and has caused me to have quite the busy fall).
I have been in-and-out of doctors’ offices, ear/nose/throat specialists’ exam rooms, and hospitals for the past year and a half trying to diagnose a recurring health problem that I have been going through.
Before you get worried and have your grandmother send me cookies (which would be greatly appreciated), let me explain…
Every 6 weeks since June of 2010, my entire vocal system (including any feeling I might have in my throat) would essentially shut down, calling for me to go on a regimen of antibiotics to restore my health in time for my next speech or conference appearance.
Sometimes I would be lucky—the antibiotics would work, I would feel rejuvenated on stage, and everything would go well. Other times though, I wasn’t so lucky. I would struggle to speak for more than an hour, fight to maintain pitch and tone, and do everything I could to maintain a decent volume.
A few weeks ago though, (and after having an HD camera shoved down my throat) I finally received the answer as to what has been going on.
When speaking, your body uses a group of muscles in harmony to produce speech. Two of these muscles are primary, doing the vast majority of the work and supplying to pure power required to make sound. Two of the other muscles, while far less important, function to do smaller things such as control pitch and tone, fine tuning the power that the initial three muscles create. While still important, these last two muscles should not be overworked.
But unfortunately, my vocal system did not get the memo.
As the camera showed, my body does the exact opposite of what it is supposed to. Instead of doing the majority of the work, my primary muscles don’t do much of anything. Instead of simply fine tuning the sound produced, my two helper muscles do all of the work, causing the m to get tired, sick, and then to shut down.
Like I said, I’m a horrible speaker.
And as if it weren’t ironic enough, I will soon have to undergo speech therapy, re-teaching my muscles step-by-step to do one of my body’s most basic functions—to talk.
My point in telling you that story is not to make you feel bad for me, my situation, or to laugh at the irony of everything (though I personally find it hilarious). On the contrary, I decided to write today to tell you something different—
Sometimes, the things in life that are the most fulfilling are the exact things that constantly present you with daunting challenges.
Homecoming weeks at schools are here, midterms are clearly present, and for a lot of you, the stress of the school year is at an all-time high. And while you might be able to lighten the load by pulling near all-nighters, putting in hours upon hours of extra prep work after school, or neglecting everything else to stay focused, the sad fact is that your body will eventually run out of energy.
Instead of virtually killing yourself by sacrificing your body and doing the same things you’ve always done, my challenge to you is the same that I currently face:
Take the time to relearn something you do constantly in a new way.
Maybe that means restructuring how you spend your time during the day, perhaps it means getting better at designating tasks, or it might even be simply learning to let go at one time or another to see things pan-out for themselves.
Nothing truly great in life comes without the work to make it something great, and more importantly, nobody ever did something flawlessly without first doing it horribly hundreds of times.
Even if it is the most routine task you do on a daily basis, relearning to do things in different, more efficient ways can make our lives (and the lives of those around us), much more fulfilling.
I will be doing my best to relearn how to speak. What will you relearn to do?