HOST INTRO: Sometimes our imaginations gets the worst of us. Commentator Asabe Vincent-Otiono always imagined the worst when she had to appear in front of a crowd. But when it happened, it didn’t turn out to be as bad as she’d feared.
The week I graduated from the University of Leicester’s Law Program was the hottest one on record in England. Three years of dozing in criminal law lectures and pronouncing TORTS as TARTS one too many times hadn’t stopped me from getting my degree.
My parents had flown in from Nigeria. They were bursting with joy; their first daughter was finally graduating. My dad was excited at having one less tuition bill to pay. He must have forgotten about graduate school in his excitement. My sisters and best friends had flown in from all parts of the world.
I was a BALL of NERVES. Standing in front of people wasn’t my favorite thing to do. I was always afraid I would fall, or knock something or someone down. It happened when I graduated from high school. I gave my principal a huge hug on the podium. She was in her late 70’s and 5’3. I was 16 and am 5’6. She lost her balance. And now. I was going to have to go on stage again. I knew I wasn’t gonna hug anyone. I didn’t even like any of my professors.
Sleep eluded me the night before the ceremony. In the morning, I was running late and had to dress up in record time. The humidity had frizzed up my hair. My friend Rhema looked down at my shoes and asked me. “Asabe what shoes are you wearing? They were my gold studded platforms. I had bought them for a Halloween party and there were a size too big. She looked at me in disbelief. But with my big hair and shoes I felt I could channel Diana Ross. She was my godmother in my head.
I entered the auditorium late, hoping no one would notice. But my mother spotted me and whistled. Subtlety has never been her strong point. I waited for the EMCEE to call my name. It was going to be a long wait to get to the last letters of the alphabet. I was sweating hard. I didn’t know if it was from the humidity or nerves. My hair had begun to frizz even more. I looked less like Diana Ross and more like Cousin It from the Addams Family.
Finally it was my turn. I walked on to the stage and smiled as I collected my diploma. “All these nerves for nothing,“ I thought. I had made it. My shyness was gone. Then I walked down the stairs from the stage, and my gold studded shoes seemed to leave my feet. There was a thud. My butt was on the floor. Five hundred unerringly polite people in the room gasped. One shoe landed right in front of the audience.
I stood up, picked up my shoes and limped barefoot to my seat. The rest of the ceremony passed in a blur. Several people came to ask if I was okay. I believe the attention was worse than the fall.
The ceremony finally ended. I limped towards my family. I had no choice but to laugh as they recounted the fall to people who hadn’t seen it. I had a bruised ankle and a bruised ego. But after something that embarrassing, I’d conquered my shyness. Somewhat.
BACK ANNOUNCE: Asabe Vincent-Otiono lives in New York and has vowed never to wear platform shoes again.