I Gave a TED Talk. Here's What Happened.May 11, 2021
So, I did something big last week. I gave a mother f'ing TED talk.
The journey to getting to the famed "red circle" was absolutely crazy, and having the opportunity to give my talk and spread my message with the world was even crazier. Despite the fact that I gave my talk over a week ago now, and that everything has been wrapped up, I still can't believe it happened. I still can't believe I gave an actual TED talk. This wasn't any "mock" TED event, nor was this just another school assignment. This was a genuine TEDx, hosted by TED. This event was on their world map of TED events, and the TED executives even tuned in live to watch the talks. It was the absolute real deal.
And I still can't even believe it.
This whole thing started last February (2017) during one of my English classes. My professor had announced that my tiny community college in the far East Bay had finally been able to secure a TEDx license, after years of rejection, and that they were going to host their first event this fall. My ears immediately perked up at the sound of that. I'd grown up watching TED talks with my dad, and it was always a secret dream of mine to give one, one day. I approached my professor after class and asked (well, kind of begged, to be honest) for him to give me more information. He said he would be submitting names of the students whom he felt would be the most adept to give talks at the end of the semester, and that he would "evaluate" us all and see. If he felt we were fit, he'd submit our names and emails to the professors managing the event, and we'd go from there.
Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I ended up being his favorite student by the end of that semester. We had so many interested conversations on real-world topics, and I purposely made an effort to raise my hand several times every class, in order to prove that I had something intelligent to add to the conversation (let's face it, though: when you're in a class talking about police brutality and feminism, how can you hold yourself back from saying something?!). Whenever he brought up TED, I would remind him that I was interested, and we'd sit and talk about potential topics and ideas. Finally, in about mid-April, he decided to submit my name for consideration, and I received an email a few days later regarding an informational meeting.
Myself, along with several others, met up with two amazing ladies just a few days later, and went over everything that it takes to bring a TED talk to life, and spread your "idea worth sharing". These ladies ended up becoming our "coaches" for the next few months, and from April through just two weeks ago, we had meetings almost weekly to discuss topics, bounce around ideas, prepare for the looming applications and auditions. This whole time, I told nobody (except my parents and my friend Lauren) what I was doing. I didn't want to get anyone excited for me, in case I wasn't selected after all. So, I worked in silence, spending the entire summer fleshing out my speech, and telling nobody what I was doing in the process.
Finally, applications went out in mid-September, and by mid-October, I had found out that I was selected. While I don't know how many people actually applied, the applications were open to anyone in Contra Costa County, and the fact that I was one of eight speakers chosen to take part in the event still, to this day, blows my mind.
The days leading up to the event were absolutely nerve-wracking, so much so that I became a hermit for several days, only leaving the house to go to rehearsals. Memorizing an ~ 11 minute speech takes a lot more than you'd think, especially when you throw in facts, statistics, and quotes that all need to be memorized too. Plus, throw in the moniker and reputation of TED, and it's enough to make a grown man cry. It's absolutely terrifying.
The moments before I went on stage, I sat in a little meditation, trying to calm my shaky knees and fast-beating heart. It took all my might to remain calm and composed. This was the biggest thing I had done in my life thus far, and I didn't want to screw it up. As I was sitting there, Gabby Bernstein's words from her own TED talk came floating into my mind: "Speak your truth, and the rest will follow." I held onto her words like a lifeline, thinking to myself that if all else failed, if I forgot my speech or lost my train of thought, to speak my truth, speak from my heart, and pray that the universe / god / some higher power would give me the strength to continue. It sounds horribly corny, but with this in mind, I sat and prayed, and set some powerful intentions: I would remember my speech. Not only that, but I would recite it with ease. The words would flow to me easily, roll off my tongue seamlessly. I wouldn't stutter nor correct myself. It would go perfectly.
And as I stepped out onto the stage, I did just that. Suddenly, a cloak of tranquility washed over me, and as soon as my feet hit that red circle, all anxiety was gone, and the words began to roll off my tongue as easily as water flows from a faucet. It was absolutely effortless. I didn't think twice about what I was saying. I didn't have to correct myself at all, nor did I stumble upon one single word. It was, truly, perfect, and in my eyes, it was the epitome of a miracle.
I couldn't have asked for my speech to go better. Couldn't have asked to be surrounded with more love and support and positivity. I couldn't have asked to have more fun, and I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity to spread my message of sustainability to the world.
Now with all of this said, you may be wondering what my speech is about. But, well... I'll let past me do the talking. ;) Click on the video below to check out the "livestream" from the event. If you have the time, I encourage you to grab some popcorn and check out everyone's amazing talks, but if you just want to see what you came here for, fast forward to (49:00).
I cannot thank you guys enough for all of your support throughout all of my crazy ventures. Thank you for having my back, and for following me down whatever path my life seems to take. I hope you enjoy my talk, and, most importantly, I hope you learn something from it.