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Perchance to Dream June 29, 2010

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Presentations, Ramblings.
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It’s amazing how our dreams seem boundless in our youth. When I was very young I must’ve had a different ambition every week, if not daily. Who didn’t? One moment I might be imagining I’d be an astronaut (with lasers, natch!) when I grew up; the next I’d fashion myself a business tycoon. Or just as quickly I might fancy myself a race car driver, if not believe wholeheartedly that I could be a rock star.

It’s not just the longshots I dreamed up, but the absolutely impossible, too. For instance, a part of me believed — believed! — that I’d be a superhero one day. Or heck, I even once thought I’d be a star agent in the FBI…nevermind I wasn’t even an American and didn’t even live in the States!

It’s not that I was a stupid kid; at least, not more so than others. I’m sure everyone had imaginations equally absurd and amusing when they were young. No: at the root of this was the fact that at that age, anyone is so innocent as to believe that anything is possible. In my case, I’d say that in my naïveté, everything was.

Then somewhere along the way, I lost that naïveté. We all do. We begin to see the world as it is and start to learn what it is we can do, oddly enough, by learning what we can’t. Slowly, we begin to dismiss: first the impossible, then the improbable, then at some point even the fanciful and fun. I know I did. In fact, lately it’s struck me that I haven’t been dreaming big about, well, anything.

Only this isn’t entirely true either. Call it missing the forest for the trees: getting so caught up in the day-to-day and the to-do tomorrow/next week/next month/next year that it becomes hard to see beyond one’s nose sometimes. Unless you look hard enough, that is. Which I did. And what I found was somewhat odd.

Secretly, I’ve been dreaming of making the presentation of my life.

Maybe that makes me a pretty stupid adult. But I can’t deny it. I think the seed was planted back in college, where every so often I’d have to prepare a speech (or two or three) and find it oddly satisfying. I could do this, I’d think each time, and might even be good at it. So there was hope. But really, I didn’t have much reason to think more about it.

Later, I’d move on to teaching and was bitten by the bug again. It’s about this time, though, that I moved on from thinking I had potential for writing/speaking to consider I might have talent for presentation. All because I started to use slideware in class. There was the satisfaction I’d get from pulling off some trick with a slideshow that no one could figure out. There was the fulfillment of seeing students’ faces light up when — eureka! — they did get the point I’d been trying to get across, just because of how I presented it. Even now, having left that world behind, the feeling chases me, as when I deliver a presentation and everyone takes it for granted that I’d been working on it for days, precisely because of the polish.

I guess that’s why I take it very personally when something goes wrong when I present, no matter how small. What if that presentation was the presentation? Did I just blow it? Sometimes, all you get is that one chance to make any impression, so when I do make the presentation of my life, I’d want it to be unabashedly awesome.

Like I said: I’m probably a pretty stupid adult for thinking all this. And I clearly think about presentations a little more than is probably healthy. But I feel that if I had to I could put together and deliver a presentation that would make your jaw drop and knock your socks off. You know, like a presentation fit for TED.

If I’m gonna dream, might as well go all out, yes?

Actually, what’s funny is that I wouldn’t even know what this presentation of my life would be about. But in broad strokes: I’d want it to be personal, inspiring (I like to think I was inspiring once) and made of the sort of stuff that would make people change their lives. I’d deliver it in front of an insanely large crowd, one that would hang on my every word because I’d prepared so well. I’d connect with them, holding them captivated, and when I’d finish there would be tears, laughter, and deafening applause.

And to think: I’m not an outgoing person. I even have stage fright!

But hey, a guy can dream.

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