Facing Your Dreams
As I stood nervously in front of the judges, I thought of that fateful moment four years ago when I first touched the United States’ soil. I looked around with hungry anticipation as I had never been outside of Saudi Arabia before. I wondered how I would fit into this new culture as I barely knew the language of the Americans. I was always a quiet child when I was growing up. I spent most of my time reading books about the world. I was most fascinated with the American culture. Of course, all of my reading was in Arabic, so I knew I would have a serious challenge on my hand in the years to come. But, I was ready to face anything, because I was now in the land of dreams. I could dream big and the big dreams would become a reality one day. I was determined to work hard to master the language so that I would realize these dreams. As I hung onto the end of my mother’s coat, I knew I would one day be able to achieve my dreams.
I often sat quietly on my mother’s lap, and listened to the stories she told of America in her soothing voice. I shared her dreams of going to the United States because I wanted her to have a better life. The smell of her vanilla body cream came back in full force as I stood looking out at the audience, and it seemed like it was only yesterday that she ruffled my uncut hair and whispered, “Dream big, my little one. Dream big, my love. One day it will all be real.” I blinked hard as the tears pricked at the back of my eyes. The dreams were now real. Here I was, standing in front of the judges in a room filled with parents and students. It was the competition of a lifetime, and I was ready. I had my doubts. What if I were not good enough? What if my greatest problem of not being able to start an essay or knowing when to stop came back to haunt me? I would be disappointed, yes but not devastated. Even if I did not win the top prize of free educational supplies for the new school year, in my heart I had already won the greatest prize. I had won the opportunity to enter the finals of the “My American Dream” competition even though I was not a native English speaker. The list had started with eight of us in round one, and now only two of us were left. I had won all of my rounds against native English speakers, and I was proud of this achievement.
I had come a long way in my style of writing. I had to learn the English Language from scratch upon my arrival, and I knew I still had not fully grasped some of the basic rules of the language, but I had one advantage and that was, I knew how to make a solid impromptu presentation. I had the kind of confidence that surprised even me at times. I knew that my family and friends knew that , but the four stern faced judges on the panel, did not know that. I silently hoped that I would not ramble as I often did when I was nervous. My palms felt clammy, and I wiped them on the back of favorite blue jeans. I was not nervous because I had to speak, I was nervous because I might not win the prize, as the written piece valued more that the oral piece.
The room seemed exceptionally hot in the midday. Sweat ran down my spine. I wondered if I were doing the right thing. My family could afford to send me to school, but they worked so hard, that I just wanted to do something to help to ease the financial strain. I had entered the competition three weeks ago, because my professor thought that with I had a good chance of winning. The competition centered on the content and delivery of a speech about living the American Dream. Of course I could attest to that; after all, I was indeed living the American Dream. Nevertheless, I had what many people would call “writer’s block” when I had to start any piece of writing. Writing a good essay was not my greatest attribute. I could never find the right way to start nor even though the air conditioner was on at full blast. I was perspiring so hard that I could feel the end the essay, but I was very good at explaining it. I tried so hard to master the language that I was often left frustrated when my papers were returned with the recurring notation, “You need to work on your introduction and closing.” I tried everything. I read sample essays, sample stories, books, and speeches. Of course, I understood how the other writers introduced and concluded their work, but when I tried, it was next to hopeless. The main stipulation in the competition is that no one could help to write the speech, which made it even more difficult. I thought about cheating, and having someone help me to write even the introduction, but I knew that if the judges found out, it would embarrass my parents because they taught me the principle that being honest and poor was better than being rich and dishonest.
I scanned the anxious faces in the crowded room, and saw my mother. She sat with her thin lips drawn together as she normally did when got nervous. My father always said that I get the same look when I am deep in concentration. She seemed to sense my eyes on her, and slightly waved her hand. I knew she was even more nervous than I was because she knew how hard I had worked on the speech. She felt helpless at times because she knew of my frustrations and could do nothing to help. Then, my focus shifted again to the judges as they sat stone-faced amidst the rising chatter of the crowd. The skinniest of the lot looked at his watch as if willing the event to start. And then, there he was, Mr. Buckles, our principal. He walked purposefully across the stage. I knew the time had come. It was here. No matter what happened, I would still be proud of the distance I had travelled to get this far.
It was over before I knew it. Everything happened so fast. One minute Mr. Buckles was announcing the contestant, and the next minute it was over. The judges sat quietly as they came to the decision. I looked at Bradley standing beside me, and I began to review the competition in my head. His speech was exceptional. His thoughts were logical, simple, clear and concise from the start to the finish. He held the reader’s attention so that when he finished, the audience shouted for more. The slender judge took the microphone from Mr. Buckles, but he did not have to do that. I knew Bruce had won fairly. I would not have wanted it any other way. I was happy for him, but I learnt something else that day, I could have won just as easily as Bruce. My ideas were very good, but it was the fear of taking the chance to find an introduction that could grab the audience’s attention. The simplicity of the start of Bruce’s speech taught me one lesson; I was trying too hard to create the ideal introduction and conclusion that I forgot that sometimes, it is the simple ideas that create the greatest impact.