Just a quick note about the following post…My name is Olivia and I’m a volunteer with TEDxSacramento, in part because of the positive impact a TEDTalk recently had on my life. The post below weaves a tiny bit of that moment into my experience at TEDxSacramento’s Evening Salon.
As the sun powers down over Sacramento, a line is ramping up outside the Guild Theater. I’m already inside the auditorium, exhausted from setting up tables, moving giant block letters and (almost) problem-solving on the fly. Despite it all, I’m excited. TEDxSacramento’s Evening Salon is about to begin. I pull out my laptop, and think back on how I came to be a part of this movement.
TED Found Me
In December I received a text message from a friend who knew intimately the struggles I’d been facing over the previous months. I clicked on the link she sent and listened as a TED speaker recounted her personal ascent out of shame, and into strength. She spoke about how negative self-perception is a creativity and life-killer and how, if you let them, these kinds of thoughts will own you.
Her words ripped me open the way Maria von Trappe sacrificed curtains so they could eventually become clothes. My chest collapsed, my throat seized up and the damn dam broke. I didn’t cry, I wailed. For what seemed like hours. I realized two things that night: I would not waste another moment on shit that didn’t matter and I had to believe in myself, completely. The next day, I thanked my friend and quit my job. Four months and lots of awesomeness later, enter TEDxSacramento…
Pretend You’ve Already Made It
I start taking notes as Patti Dobrowolski takes the stage to a packed house. Patti is a street performer-turned consultant and author, who literally wrote the book on how creativity can manifest into reality. We all deal with fear and discomfort, she says, “but fear is wonderful because it sparks your imagination and we imagine our way out of disaster. When facing a fear or challenge, if you imagine yourself on the other side of that hell, and dream that desire as a new reality -- and then draw a picture of it (literally!) -- it will happen.”
“You just need to pretend you’ve already made it. Then, like a child, enter into that world. Play in there. Life will fill in the blanks.”
Ask the Crowd to Catch You
The singer of the Dresden Dolls, Amanda Palmer, is up next, appearing bigger than life on the TEDx screen. She tells the crowd that her unique time “passing the hat” as an eight-foot bride led to “profound encounters” and “intense eye contact” with strangers.
“We would fall in love a little bit,” she says. “My eyes would say, ‘thank you. I see you’ and their eyes would say, ‘nobody ever sees me. Thank you.’”
Her talk centers on how to ask people for what you want. The artist, who made more than a million dollars asking for help on KickStarter, says this:
“I asked the crowd to catch me. I didn’t make them, I asked them. So many people are scared to ask. Yes, it makes you vulnerable but through the very act of asking, you connect with people. When we really see each other we want to help each other.”
At intermission, we break for a surprise “field trip,” where ushers direct us around the building and into the Guild’s courtyard. Candles, live music, sliders and mason jars filled with beer await already amped-up guests.
It’s my job to mingle, and the patio is packed and buzzing. I talk with a long-lost friend and also meet a new one, Doreen Auger a newly minted TEDx evangelist. We skip all meaningless chit chat and by the end, I am inviting myself to join her Women’s Wisdom retreat and she offers me part of her chocolate cake on a stick. “It’s better to share,” she says.
Find Your People
Back inside, speaker Liz Salmi couldn’t agree more. One week
after her 29th birthday she was diagnosed with brain cancer and, with
it, a 33 percent chance of survival. With no medical insurance and no idea if
she was going to live, she started a blog, carefully set to “private" at first.
“I didn’t want people to read it. I didn’t want my friends to know I was really scared. I didn’t want future employers to find it.”
But after her second brain surgery, she needed to talk to somebody. “I made a huge decision to change the settings from private to public. I wrote whatever was in my mind. I didn’t care if people were offended.”
Turns out, they were not. Supporters from all over the world found her words. Eventually they would call themselves the Liz Army and helped her pay for the medical treatment she needed to survive. They also found the encouragement they needed to survive.
“What I once thought was a personal, private story,” she says, “I know now does a lot more good being out in the world.”
As I leave, I have a Cave Women song stuck in my head. I am high. Not from the beer, but from the Talks, the music, the dancers, the people I met... the whole thing. And in the spirit of “ideas worth sharing,” I immediately call my friend and tell her about the night she missed and in some way made possible.