In my last post about preparing for TEDxCharlottesville, I said, “if you are going to stand up in front of a lot of people, you better mean what you say and say what has meaning to you.”
Well, I had the idea that I somehow wanted to blend the work we are doing at Montpelier on slavery and the Constitution with my own personal experience, limited as it is, about race in America. To put it mildly, I went through a LOT of iterations of this talk.
Now that my talk is over, here’s the sad news -- I miss my TED talk. After thinking about it for months and fiddling with it and doing at least six completely different versions and forgetting it half the time and remembering the critical parts at the last minute, I grew very fond of my TED talk. It became that bad boyfriend that you just knew you could redeem if you just lavished with a little more time and love.
TEDx also became a way of defining my spare moments. Early in the morning. Driving in the car. Subjecting my friends to listening to it in odd locations. Singing it. What ended up being one of my favorite parts of the TED experience was how interactive the creative process was for me.
There was magic in the creative process that came from so many people. The person who told me to “go quiet” on one particular phrase. The friend who let me know that somehow, when I said the word "race" I seemed to swallow it. The colleague who gave me the last three sentences that made the perfect culmination of the entire experience. The coach who throughout the entire process kept helping me subtract and add and sometimes demolish.
And, I think that is TED at its essence. Creative, intuitive, personal, frustrating, hopeful, scary, and at the bottom line human, human, human.
The day of the talk I, of course, arrive excruciating early. I am the first speaker and I want to be like the kid who is going to get the A+. They don’t really totally know what to do with this woman who is bouncing off the walls at 8 AM in the morning. The make up artist comes and she’s fabulous. I’m trying to chat up all the other presenters because I’ve missed the dinner party the night before and I’m really looking for that social connection or anything to distract me before the 9 o’clock start of show. But then you get fascinated by all the bells and whistles. The back stage peering out at audience as it fills up. The band playing. The cool guys behind the scenes who are putting the head mics on and telling you ‘you’re going to be fine.’ When inside you are saying you don’t know if ‘you’re going to be fine.’ There’s a lot of prayer going on.
I will admit I was very nervous that day before walking out to the red dot. But there really is a moment when I walked out into the light and it sort of felt like the folks in that room were rooting for me. Everyone wanted it to go well. This was my chance to share something I’d been working on for such a long time and I thought it was a good story. At this point, my only option was to step out on the stage, give my talk and hope the message resonates in someone’s soul.
I will be internally grateful for the chance to have that opportunity. I loved being there. I loved the fact that people were so responsive in the audience (no one threw tomatoes). I loved the fact that I felt folks in Charlottesville profoundly care. It was a affirmation for me of the very best of all of us, working together, to try to tell our human story and improve our human experience and maybe, just maybe, come out of it slightly better.