Interview Essay Example
John Branch, who had grown up a terribly, painfully shy person, remembers the first time he had to speak in front of a large crowd.
“My father had just died. I was 22,” says Branch, a resident of Washington, D.C. “At his funeral, I didn’t know for sure if someone would be saying his eulogy – and saying it in a way that was both respectful and complimentary of his life and his accomplishments. So, despite my almost paralyzing fear of speaking in front of people, I knew I had to do it myself. So I did.”
Growing up, Branch was prone to panic attacks when forced to address strangers or large groups of people. He would grow dizzy, his mouth would be so dry he could barely formulate words, and he would begin sweating profusely. But rarely a word would get said – and if words would come, they were usually said timidly and came out jumbled.
On one occasion, he even fainted in front of his class while giving a presentation. He was 14.
“It was the kind of thing I thought I’d always have to deal with,” he adds. “After a while, I just gave up on ever speaking successfully in front of large groups of people.”
It was the original reason that Branch, now 29, wanted to become a blogger. He felt it was a job that would require little speaking in front of people, one that also mostly required him to work remotely and with little contact with people.
But then he experienced a personal transformation.
“The morning of my dad’s funeral, I got up very early and went to a nearby park. Instead of sitting there worrying about speaking in front everyone at the funeral, I concentrated more on the bigger picture: honoring my father’s life,” he says. “I learned it’s what had to be done – and it was indeed much bigger than myself. It was greater than me and, for that time, more important than me. When I thought that I was only a speaker telling these people about my father and his life, I started to grow less worried about the pressure of speaking. I grew less self-conscious and embraced a little humility.”
So that morning of his father’s funeral, Branch took out a pen and a notebook and started writing what a few hours later would become the basis of his father’s eulogy.
At the funeral, when it was time for him to read his father’s eulogy to about 200 people, he focused on what had to be done instead of the obstacle that stood in front of him.
Reading with an unlikely passion for his father’s life and with an unprecedented confidence, he was able to do the eulogy.
“I credit a little change in perspective, that’s all. Had I not embraced the notion that I was the only person in the room who could have honored my father this way, I would have never been able to address of room full of sad and crying family and friends,” says Branch. “When I was speaking, I wasn’t self-conscious, I didn’t have any doubts about what I was doing; I only read from the piece of paper I had written on with an aim to do the right thing and give tribute to my dad. He was a good man and deserved someone’s pleasant words.”
Now, just a few years later, Branch is a professional writer.
But after learning to put fears aside and finding a greater purpose in our actions, doing something greater than ourselves, he has also become a motivational speaker.
“I’m not a natural public speaker. Not even close,” he says. “But I’ve learned how to help a great deal of people find powers, talents and abilities they never thought they had. It’s a very special thing to be able to do, and I consider myself very fortunate for having to overcome and embrace this obstacle, and then for having the opportunity to help others do the same thing. I’ve become a better, stronger person from it.”