Wednesday, November 06, 2013

And now a speaker too--Carolyn R. Wilker

Speaking to Rotary, Guelph, ON.
Matching the banner behind me was not planned.
Photo courtesy of Jan C. Jofriet

On November 1st, I was invited to be guest speaker for one of the Rotary Clubs in Guelph, Ontario. While I also offer memoir workshops, the presentation deemed most suitable for this service club was my keynote GPS: Goals, Plan, Success.

It's been a bit of a journey getting here though. Now that I think of it, one of my teachers in high school predicted that we’d have more than one career in our lifetime, possibly as many as three or four. It was hard for me to believe that since all I wanted to do was teach. I'd wanted to do that from the time I was a little girl in Sunday School. 

My father was a farmer and it was his life’s work; most other people I knew stayed with one career or type of work for their entire working life, though there were a few exceptions even then. 

Yet at the time, apart from teaching small ones in Sunday School, I was hesitant to put up my hand in class for fear of being wrong. If someone had told me then that I would be speaking and writing one day, I would not have believed it.

When I began to write, I learned that I would indeed have to speak, and if I had a book, then for sure I would have to promote it, or give a workshop or talk about writing. I respected people who could stand up and speak, but the thought of doing it myself made me anxious.

I’m convinced Marj was put in my path to get to Toastmasters—my first tentative, shaking step. I kknew nothing of this organization until I met her at an authors association meeting and commented on the ease of the speaker who was giving a presentation that evening.

 The respectful mentoring and evaluations of fellow members, along with all the practice I was getting, helped me to hold the butterflies at bay, but it took time.

My first book was launched and I was ready to promote it and actually enjoyed the experience. Teaching writing and facilitating group learning for mature adults at a community centre in Kitchener has been another growing and learning experience.

Then along came two world-class coaches and speakers, Jeremy Tracey and Sarah Hilton. At the first boot camp, when I found out I would be writing and presenting a keynote speech, I thought, What am I doing here? Where would I start?  

Having experienced a number of jobs, including small business ventures in crafts and custom sewing, election work, part-time jobs, work in a book store,  and later university courses, I settled on the topic of change for my keynote, and how to adapt to it, even when change is thrust upon us.

 Italian Canadian Club, Ferguson Street in Guelph, Ontario

After finding the Italian Canadian Club where the group meets, I set up my books at a designated table and then sat at the head table where I would be for the duration of the luncheon meeting. That large room that was the size of a banquet hall. I would certainly need the microphone.

I had been told that there could be as many as fifty to sixty Rotarians present, and I think that day,  between thirty and forty men and women sat in my audience, the largest one to which I had spoken, not including the speech at our daughters’ weddings last year, delivered to well over one hundred souls each time. But this was a keynote, not a 5-minute wedding speech on the part of mother of the bride, times two. 

There I was in the city of Guelph, ready to speak to Rotarians—professionals, business leaders and entrepreneurs from the community, and I saw them nodding their heads. Surely a great many of them had either gone through such an experience of changing jobs for whatever reason, or knew someone who had.

It's still surprising to me that I can say "yes" when someone asks me to speak, even more when I seek out opportunities myself and go out to different places and address a group  of total strangers and some people I know. 

When we step out in faith, even with a good deal of trepidation, God is there with us.  I knew that before, but I had to get ready for this kind of opportunity, grow as a person. A verse from Philippians that I memorized years ago comes back often. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” 

God goes with us when we’re in strange waters. In a new job in a preschool. As a sole entrepreneur, an author, an editor, as a writing instructor, storyteller, and now as a speaker too. He's with us in each step we take, familiar or unfamiliar, sought out or something new. We just have to ask and trust him.

Workshop presenter at Write! Kitchener 2013
Photo by Glynis Belec

Leading a workshop for Writers United, October 2013
 Photo by Glynis Belec

Storytelling at the Enabling Gardens, Guelph, Ontario, August 2013


Peter Black said...

Carolyn, great stuff! You give us ample and just cause to be proud of you. :)

Your mention of change and changing careers is interesting. By including writing I'm in my third career.
Nice pics, too. ~~+~~

Carolyn R. Wilker said...

Thank you, Peter. For you, third career; for me it's fourth or fifth.

Rose McCormick Brandon said...

This is an encouraging piece. Thanks for sharing your journey with me. The last paragraph especially spoke to me.

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