On Wednesday, I gave a presentation on The Language of Violence to my coworkers. That day was a very long time in coming – six years, to be exact. Ever since I became trained as a crisis counselor and victims advocate, I dreamed of making an impact in the world I exist in during the work week; the one where my crisis work has little to do with my day job. And after embarking on many roads that led to nowhere within my company, I had lost hope that my dream would come to fruition.
Months earlier, a woman I greatly respect and consider my ‘shero’ in the industry, had given me the green light to create a presentation on a topic I felt we could be stronger in: the language of interpersonal and sexual violence. Lord knows such crimes were intersecting with our industry with an almost daily frequency. For months, I percolated on the topic and how I would address it in an effective manner. And, true to my creative form, I didn’t write the presentation until about one week out from delivering it.
Writing a speech and developing a framework is always a strange process for me. My thoughts scatter and swirl on the subject and then, sentence by sentence, I create a framework. I’ll wake up in the morning with the exact wording of a specific point I want to make and scramble to write it down. On my daily commute, I have to dictate thoughts to my iPhone as they occur to me as I drive. The rumination and repetition of it all, consume my brain power until the moment I take the stage to deliver the assembled words.
On Wednesday, after much scrutiny and pressure by my peers to get it right for a host of reasons I won’t get into here, I presented on The Language of Violence for 30 minutes to approximately 300 coworkers. I was nervous and vulnerable in a way I haven’t been in years. But I dug in, found my footing, and never looked back. I’ve spoken enough times now that I know when I have a room’s attention. And I had this room. As uncomfortable as the topic is or can be for people, to their credit, they stayed engaged and focused as I worked my way through the slides and video clips and my reasoning for why this is an important topic for all of us, and why it matters.
When I was finished, my voice broke slightly because I saw so many tear-stained faces staring back at me, and it moved me. My coworkers jumped out of their chairs and gave me a standing ovation, which surprised me so much, I put my head down and couldn’t lift it as I walked back up the aisle, away from the stage. It was such a surreal and special moment, and I could hardly absorb it. As person after person approached me to tell me their stories or to ask for advice, I realized that my worries that this audience would be different than so many of the ones I’d spoken to before them, was unfounded. And it reinforced my knowledge that these crimes affect everyone and that so many people want to do better and know better about them.
So, Wednesday was a magical day, not only for its significance in the hopes I’ve long had, but in the feeling of love and trust imparted to me by my shero. A strong and wonderful woman lifted me up. She encouraged me and told me to kick ass. She even handed me a very profane pair of socks that instructed me as much (are they not AMAZING?!?).
And I’ll never forget it or her or that moment. It was a very long time in coming, indeed.