At Toastmasters, the first speech you give is your Ice Breaker speech. I decided I wanted to make a big splash with mine, especially with the surprise ending. I gave it on Monday, and it was really hard to wait four days to blog about it. Here goes — I’ll give you an approximation of my speech in text form.
Hi! I’m Pace. I’m going to tell you the story of my life. I’ve only got five minutes, so I’ll tell you the swiss cheese version — I’ll give you the whole slice, but it’ll have lots of holes in it.
I was born. I had a couple of parents. I had a brother who is 7 years younger than me. I had a childhood. We grew up in Pittsburgh, PA. I was the “good kid” and he was the “bad kid”. I was the teacher’s pet, did well in school, and never got into trouble. I was born with a bronze spoon in my mouth — upper middle class — and never really wanted for anything material. In highschool there were two subjects I enjoyed a lot: English and computers. In my spare time I created poetry, stories, and computer games. When it came time to choose a college, I needed to choose one of these two interests to focus on. I chose computers, because there was more money in it.
My parents were able to send me to a really nice college that was also close to home, Carnegie Mellon University. I majored in Logic and Computation, with a focus in Artificial Intelligence. I thought artificial intelligence was SO COOL! It’s not like what you see in the movies, with robots going crazy and killing all the humans. It’s more practical stuff, like giving computers common sense. And it’s mostly not robots, it’s the brains inside the robots. It’s the machine at the post office that scans the address on your envelope and reads your handwriting. It’s the software on Amazon that recommends other books you might like. So I studied artificial intelligence for four years, did some research, and found that the only place doing AI in what I considered to be the Right Way was a place right here in Austin, Texas. I had one job interview, accepted the job on the spot, and worked there for six or seven years.
Then I met Kyeli. We fell in love. I met her son Dru, who was very amiable, and we hit it off right away too. Our first conversation was about black holes. Kyeli and I got married and I adopted Dru. Life was good.
And then, a couple of years ago, something astonishing happened, and I’m not going to tell you what it was.
Everything changed. Suddenly, I didn’t care about AI anymore. I didn’t enjoy computer programming as much as I used to. My passion had changed. Now, what I cared about was helping people and making the world a better place. I also really enjoyed explaining things. So I said to Kyeli, “Hey Kyeli, I want to help people, I want to make the world a better place, and I really enjoy explaining things. What can we do about this?” The answer was obvious. We’re lesbians! And what do lesbians do all day? …We talk! We process our emotions. We work on our relationship. By this point in our lives, we had become experts on communication and self-work. And thus, the Usual Error Project was born.
We squeezed out slices of our evenings and weekends for the Usual Error Project, and it was good. I enjoyed it a lot, but of course I kept my AI job because I was making mad amounts of cash.
And that’s the story of my life up to today.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that there’s a certain power — a kind of magick — that comes from being wholehearted, from focusing on something you love 100%. Now that the Usual Error Project is my passion, I want to focus on it 100%.
And that, fellow Toastmasters, is the reason that one hour from now, I am going to quit my job.