Reflecting on Being a Indigenous Career Speaker: Audrey Tooshkenig

Reflecting on Being a Indigenous Career Speaker: Audrey Tooshkenig

By: Audrey Tooshkenig
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Thinking back about participating on the panel, I recognized that I am only developing as a public speaker as I continue to evolve as a human being. Despite the fact that I make my living speaking daily, almost non-stop, I, Audrey Tooshkenig, had a major hurdle to overcome. Myself! How to speak to a group of people with confidence as well as offer something of substance and have it be about me…THAT initially struck me as “honking my own horn” as my mom would have coined it. And that was considered a “no-no.” Of all the times to have a life crisis moment, I, Audrey Tooshkenig, Drama Queen bar none, was having a wee melt down in the self-confidence area.  

As introductions were being made by the emcee, I recognized the dark veil looming and I voiced my fear to the lovely gentleman seated to my right, who fortunately, the calming voice of reason, plainly stated to me, in the nicest matter of fact way, as he leaned in toward me said, “that’s what the people are here to hear!” As I looked into his kind, glistening eyes, I heard, felt, his words deep in the safe secure place where I keep all the good stuff that is me, a wave of calm sweep through me. The next thing you know I was singing like a bird. Those few honest heartfelt words of advice changed what could have been a disastrous unmasking of a failure…in my eyes. It is said that we are our own worst critic. We can be our own worst enemy. It would not have been the first time that that fear had consumed and gripped me in the guts and shut me down. But it ended that day as I spoke my story. It was something special for me to be able to share my personal truths with the group in attendance that day. 

Taking the challenge and risk of indulging myself in talking about myself, was like such a courageous, mature and responsible act for me. It was a terrifying prospect… what to say, how much to elaborate without boring or sounding like a know it all, or shameless braggart. So much doubt and fear swimming in my head…But it all stopped when the calming words tapped into my core. Like a light switch was flicked on, my energy regrouped and it was show time. I had agreed to share my stories and I was able to do just that. At that moment in the next breath I was speaking. About the past, present and hopes for the future. As I spoke, it made me think about and appreciate who I am today. It made me recognize that it was indeed an incredible journey to get here. It made me remember people and situations that molded me into the character that I am; strengths and weaknesses all. It put a mirror up to my face and asked me to look myself in the eye and see if everything was on the up and up! It was a big deal for me. Why! Why?

I questioned myself as to what it was that I feared about speaking. The list started with a bunch of what ifs… but really what I feared was myself…I thought “why would anyone want to hear about my stuff.”   

As a teacher, I have no problem delivering information, explanation, demonstrations, from my heart, to the best of my ability, on a daily basis. In my teaching mode, I believe in myself, what I do and the impact I make on my students. Speaking to a group of adults however, with the same confidence, somehow caused a defensive mechanism to fire in me. I found that I was only able to speak in defense of others, for what I believed to be the right. I had no problem speaking for the correct thing for a group who needed a voice. My voice was there, but when it came to the personal, the stories about me, my voice faltered, stammered, silenced. 

I decided to participate on the panel as a personal challenge to address the oratory blockage I have been aware of for quite a while. Many times I tried and many times I died. Many times I decided I would try again another time. The panel was a personal hurdle and I feel good about the jump! Big thanks and warm thought go out to the gentleman to my right on a regular basis and to the Story Teller panel for the invitation to participate. 

As an ever evolving life-long learner, I am only scratching the surface of what I would like to talk about. I find I am almost excited to share more.


Read more about Audrey and watch her speak at the 2012 Indigenous Peoples Career Speakers event.

Audrey Tooshkenig works as an enrolling teacher in the Vancouver School District. She teaches an ESL Kindergarten class in East Vancouver during the school year and Literacy/ Reading Skills in the summer. She joined the 2012 Indigenous Peoples Career Speakers event as a panelist in 2012.

Posted on March 05, 2013