清华大学沈悠：The road not taken in life
Hello, ladies and gentlemen. Today my topic is The Road Not Taken in Life.
“Why are you doing this? Don’t you know it’s a total waste of time?” That’s what my mom yelled at the ten-year-old me, when she found out that I had signed up for an English story-telling competition.
I bowed my head; yes, she was right. By then I was entering Grade Six, faced with the biggest challenge yet to come—the examination to enter my dream junior high school. For that, I had given up my beloved piano lesson, my favorite cartoon program and even the playful weekend family reunion with my cousins. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if my very-strict-university-teacher mother got furious at me when I chose to do anything besides study at that crucial moment.
But that’s not all to it. Now please take a good look at the twenty-year-old me, and imagine what I was like when I was ten. Here are the key words: nervous, timid, shy, tongue-tied when facing strangers, and essentially a bookworm. These signs looked fatal to my mother, and possibly to you, too; she thought that I could be anything but a good public speaker.
Well, I myself actually said no to my English teacher at first, because I had never done anything like that before and I was afraid. But he told me since I liked reading so much, why not try to tell a story I love to everyone? He also promised me that the judges were not frightening at all; just think of them as carrots and cabbages in a vegetable patch.
The ten-year-old me was persuaded by my teacher’s words. The feeling of telling my beloved stories to someone else ignited a spark of anticipation in my little chest. So I chose to endure my mother’s ranting for an entire hour, then raised my head bravely and pleaded: “Mom, please. I just want to try.”
My mother looked as if she was on the verge of another outburst—but she only sighed. I took that as her permission, and started working with my teacher day and night to find a story, to illustrate the details, and to practice my facial expressions and gestures in front of the mirror. On the day of the competition, I went on the stage for the very first time in my life; I could feel the nervousness threatening to bring me down, and I felt cheated by my teacher: it was impossible to picture the judges as mere carrots and cabbages. But I went on. Although I only got the third prize at that time, on that stage I stayed ever since, even to this very moment.
I should thank my teacher and my mother for letting me take a road that I have never taken before. Little did I know then that this road would one day lead the shy little ten-year-old me into a wonderland; it led me to meet all of you here today. I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that it isn’t so terrifying to venture into the unknown at all; all you need is a little courage and determination. See where my road has led me, and bravely take your first step.