Harry wobbled up the grooves of the hill with absolute panic wrecking through his body. He never faced such a paranoia even when he was asked to walk up to a lady cadet for the first time at Antza academy as part of the introductory regime. He faced several battles and made countless rescues, but he could never get over this ultimate nemesis of his – the fear of climbing up a hill to address the colony.
He told himself constantly – “you have been the best cadet from The Academy and you have achieved so much…addressing a lot of fellow cadets is not fatal…” – and yet…
It was very easy for Harry to pass on communication crisply and clearly one to one and interact with his team during onsite missions and offsite planning, but taking stage was something that gave him nightmares. He didn’t make a great impression last time and yet again Harry was invited to the annual graduation ceremony at Antza to deliver a speech. Harry was a favorite to Director Antler Burrow (Dir AB he was called fondly) of Antza – “…I want my cadets to look up to you Harry…” said Dir AB in his wire, “…and motivate the young cadets on the adventures in store for an ‘inspiring dist-ant life’!”
“…it was a disaster last year…”, Harry’s thoughts triggered a chill through his antlers(antennae, but Harry called them antlers!). But “…this time”, Harry told himself, “it will be different…”. “This time…I am prepared…I have the magic formula…”, Harry recollected the session with his teacher, Prof. Song the previous day as he made his way up the hill slowly.
“Son, do you know why you wobble when you go up there and not when you are talking closer to the team?”, asked Song with a kind but sharp eye on Harry.
“Its not fear of heights…for sure…”, coughed Harry.
“It is because while you are with the team – closer, in action – you feel one with them and your focus is on ‘what’ you are saying and not so much on ‘what they are thinking about how you are saying it!'”, conveyed Song in a tight antlery whizz to Harry.
“Sorry Professor, that was too much to consume…are you saying when I go up there I tend to disconnect myself from the rest?”, with his antlers still vibrating from the zen he received.
“Yes, and more importantly, you tend to disconnect from yourself too. And your mind shifts focus from what you have to speak (and why), to who all are watching you and what they might think about it or some such funny feelings”, chuckled Song.
“So all I have to do is stay connected? Meaning, no going up the ant-hill?” Harry almost beamed at the sliver of a let off.
“No son, but behaving as if you are with everyone of them even when you are up there”
“Okay…how do I do that!”, asked a bewildered Harry.
“By staying connected with your (best) self”, Song reflected as Harry gulped a sugar nibble.
“There are many ways our ant-cestors have employed – pacing up and down to feel comfortable, smiling at the colony, starting with obvious lines -‘what a beautiful day…’, and the like.”
“I don’t know if it worked for them to connect, but to you, Harry, I ask this – imagine if you are to rescue a frightened young cadet stuck in the field and bring him back to safety, what would you think of Harry?”
“I will race towards him and give him all I have to make him go to the field again”, jumped Harry.
“And why will you do that?”, asked Song
“Because that’s who I am, my identity as an ant depends on how many strong ones I have around me, I cannot let anyone down”, Harry collected himself.
“Well, that’s why you are DIST-ANT and Dir AB asks you to come over every year. That’s it! Harry, remember this when you walk up an ant-hill to give a speech and the words will find you…in your mind’s eye imagine the stage to be the ground you conquer to help that poor cadet (sitting in the audience) get back to feet…”
As his feet found new inspiration, Harry felt collected again. He raced up the ant-hill with an urge to rescue and pump-up the frightened young cadet.
“…recollect the best memories to tell them all…” cheered Dir AB from the front groove, as Harry smiled at the frightened cadet in the audience and began his narrative to the Antza graduates.