I lead a fairly private personal life, which is by design. When you’ve chosen a life as I have that puts you out there and keeps you out there, you have to hold something back for yourself. Otherwise, it all just gets lost in the shuffle. There’s nothing left to call your own. Maybe some of you can relate.
Well, as people who have been with me on the wild ride that’s been the last couple of years – makeups, breakups, deaths, and other roads I never thought I’d take – it’s only right to let you know about why I really took the trip to Atlanta last week.
I’m a traveler and have never lived in one place for any great length of time since I left Houston back in 1996. I spent 16 years there, which was more a factor of not having a fucking car and having to do that whole “education” thing than actually wanting to be there. (Damn adolescence and the associated driving laws, right?) This year marks my third year in Denver, Colorado which is pretty weird in and of itself, as I’m well on my way to passing up Las Vegas on the list of Places I’ve Lived the Longest (3.5 years). The moral being, when I have the chance to get the hell out of dodge, I do. And last week had a bit of an ulterior motive. I hopped a plane to go see Ted.
I’ve spent the last year or so getting to know Ted and the process has been one that’s encompassed everything from unbridled hilarity to heartbreaking moments that have left me weeping. But none of it has been bad. Rather, it’s been a journey that left me with a better sense of who I am, what I want and more importantly, what kind of crumbs I’m willing to clean-up on the other side of the bed. Since losing Jason around this time last year, it’s been an ever-present question: what do I want in the person who will help me rise above myself? Who will challenge me and refuse to let me sink into that hole of complacency? Who will call me on my bullshit and make me own everything about myself instead of letting me make excuses?
The answer is, it’s Ted.
Ted – My New (Giggle) Boyfriend
Ted won’t mind if I tell you that we’ve never been intimate for more than 18 minutes. Ted also won’t mind if I tell you that he’s a fucking genius in every sense of the term and looks great naked. You can strip him down to the bare minimum or dress him up and he simply looks incredible.
And most importantly, he’s compassionate, caring, and doesn’t get embarrassed by the fact that I want to tell everyone I know about him (which is a fair departure from those in my life who felt that I was useful for “fun” and not meant for “sharing” or other modes of public consumption).
I went to Atlanta to spend the weekend with Ted.
I Can’t Believe You Haven’t Already Met Ted!
Yeah, I’m pulling your leg. I don’t have a new boyfriend, but I have built an incredibly meaningful relationship with TED. It boggles my mind when people tell me they haven’t heard of TED, which is why I’m writing this post today to get you introduced to one of the most meaningful relationships in my life.
What is TED? Launched in 1984, TED is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ideas worth spreading. No, it’s not a relationship that will give you the clap or anything that requires an ointment or single-dose antibiotic to fix. The organization brings together people at its various conferences on local, national, and global levels and challenges people the world over to deliver the talk of their lives – and do it in 18 minutes or less.
WTF – only 18 minutes? Yeah, but I’ll tell you…unlike anything in the back seat of any car, this is 18 minutes you’ll remember. And if you’re really riled-up and ready for seconds (or even thirds – you saucy minx, you…) TED will be waiting. All you have to do is press play.
What can I expect to find at TED? Well, everything. TED talks are available translated into 82 different languages and span topics ranging from science, culture, design, sustainability and everything you can think of in between. You can expect to be moved. To laugh. To commiserate and cry. And you can expect to leave each TED talk with a perspective you never thought you would have on the world that surrounds you.
Explore a pianist who will take you on a journey through the creative process. HERE.
Gain new insight on how schools just might be killing (instead of fostering) creativity. HERE.
Understand why leaders become great – even when surrounded by those of exceeding talent and greater resources. HERE.
What I Was Really Doing in Atlanta
I was invited out by the organizers of TEDx Peachtree, an independently organized TED event, to cover the event and participate from a media standpoint. This meant that I got to meet many of the speakers and more importantly, spend an entire day in the midst of brilliance. TED was my guide for the entire trip and I left Atlanta with so much more than I had.
Here’s a sampling of what my 8.5 hours spent with TED yielded:
- A primate researcher demonstrating how beings truly do want to collaborate and share – animals are amazing and the talk inspired me to seek more ways to collaborate and leave “selfish” behind.
- A life long autism researcher who took the audience on a journey through autism in terms that everyone can understand, dispelling the myth that it’s a psychological disorder. I met him after his talk and thanked him with tears in my eyes, as my nephew is autistic and I felt that he was the first person who had ever explained my nephew’s struggle in an accessible way. It also reinforced what an incredible person I see my sister to be, having guided my nephew on his journey so far.
- An immigrant who gave a startling speech on her perspective of the American Dream, smashing myths of entitlement and replacing them with perspectives on gratitude that are clearly missing from much of today’s American culture.
- A PhD who shared insights on how our minds truly can control things outside of our bodies. If you know of Randy Pausch, she’s one of the many who was fortunate enough to be one of his students. I spoke with her after the event and can I just say day-yum? What a smart cookie – and on top of that, she’s vibrant, human, and passionate about what she does. And it shows.
- An education researcher out of Northern California who discussed how education needs to change and that more technology in our classrooms isn’t the answer. As a girl who was always bored in school because I was a nontraditional learner, this really hit home and I look forward to seeing what inroads they can make in changing the way our classrooms welcome children of all learning types. As today, we mostly only accommodate one type, which leaves entirely too many lost in the din of “traditional” education.
- A former FEMA leader who demonstrated how hyperlocal focus will be the most powerful tool for future disaster-stricken communities to recover. FEMA’s resources are limited – the onus is on us to help our communities instead of asking how the government can help.
So, yeah – these were all ideas worth spreading and I wish I had the bandwidth to share everything I heard last Friday. But every talk at TEDx Peachtree reminded me why I’d made the trip to go hand out with TED, even if we only got to spend 18 minutes a pop with one another until the next talk came along.
So Now, You’ve Met TED…
Maybe you’re a little pissed that I linkbaited you into today’s post by saying I had a new boyfriend. If you are, you really should know better, as I’ll write anything in that damn subject line to get you into my world (and you know this). But what I’ve hopefully done is introduce some new people to TED, a very meaningful relationship in my life, and give you a new source for inspiration.
I’ve committed to myself to watch no fewer than two new TED talks each week. This week so far, it’s been a neuroscientist’s journey through her own stroke (made me cry) which I mentioned above and a Portuguese woman’s talk on how legal documents should be written in “plain English.” Next week? I can’t wait to see what I discover from TED.
Sure, TED isn’t just mine, but he has helped me in incredible ways through my journey over the past year. TED helps me better understand what kind of crumbs I’m willing to clean up on the other side of the bed someday and what I want in that magical person who will share my life’s journey with me. So, yeah – TED’s my boyfriend. For now. Inspiration, compassion, laughter, and challenge – TED gives me everything. And I can’t thank the TEDx Peachtree team enough for making me a part of their event and for every one of the speakers and participants – including the Atlanta Music Project and CORE Performance Company – for giving their time and sharing ideas that were definitely worth spreading.
PS: If you’re bummed about not having made it to a TED event yet, why not bring one to your community? Check out TEDx – your chance to bring ideas worth spreading to your community.