When my husband died in March 2019, I reacted by finding things to do, places to go, people to see. Suddenly I was released from being full-time carer and chief worrier. In the summer of 2019, I travelled all round the UK, took a flying visit to Hansa cities of Hamburg and nearby Luebeck, attended a conference in beautiful Split in Croatia, and visited my sister in Catalunya. I rounded off my first solo year with a visit to family in Singapore – with a holiday in New Zealand thrown in. In August of that year I joined a new club, Worthing Speakers, part of Toastmasters International, and this was to prove to be the best thing I ever did.
Because, along came Covid-19. Suddenly I couldn’t go anywhere at all – no family visits, no more leisurely lunches, no choir, no classes at the gym. Well, we’ve all been there of course, so that’s enough about lockdown.
But what has saved me from crawling up my own walls has been Toastmasters. As soon as it became apparent that our in-person meetings could no longer happen, the committee moved everything online. And the club is thriving in the new medium. New members are joining us all the time.
Members of Toastmasters are entitled to visit any other club in the world. In fact, last December I had visited two clubs in Singapore. But with online Toastmasters, the world has opened up. I have achieved two levels on my Persuasive Influence pathway, and am working on the next two levels with projects that will benefit the club. I have joined the committee, attended online conferences, and am about to enter a speech competition. Whoever would have thought that I could do all this during a pandemic?
I very rarely sit down in front of my TV these days, preferring to drop in on friendly faces in other parts of the UK and even further afield. I have attended clubs in Ireland, the USA, Singapore (returning to one of the ones I had visited in person before). I have given prepared speeches, taken on roles such as grammarian and timer, spoken during the impromptu table topic sessions, and generally enjoyed very friendly, yet structured evenings. I have got to know a few people around the world and made useful contacts both in my Toastmasters career and socially.
One evening, I sang a song at an open mic session run by a club in Ireland, and was awarded first place. I have to admit though that the competition was not strong!
Toastmasters and our club, Worthing Speakers, have been my lifeline during the past six months. Even though most of us are able to see our families now, I still cannot, due to Singapore’s very strict entry rules and I have to be content with daily Whatsapp calls for now.
But what is really keeping me sane is Worthing Speakers and Toastmasters.