You know when you get married, and everyone tells you to slow down and enjoy the day so that it doesn’t pass you by, and the next thing you know, you are in it, and then it’s over, and you are waking up the next morning still in your wedding dress with beer stains around the bottom and a chicken running around your bedroom thinking…wait…what the hell just happened and why does it smell like something is on fire in here?
That is the absolute best way I can describe speaking at TEDxBGSU.
Some people sing in the car, I give pretend TED talks. It’s been a dream of mine for years, and I was ecstatic when I heard TED was coming to the area, and then basically orgasmic to find out I had been nominated to speak. The first person I told was my father, who, while uncharacteristically heterosexual, would go gay for Al Fraken, Al Gore or Bill Clinton in a second. Needless to say, his little liberal heart grew three sizes that day.
Writing a TED talk is…impossible. Nothing I wrote felt smart or witty enough, and for two months, I had a Google Doc permanently open on my desktop titled DON’T CLOSE FINISH YOUR FUCKING TED TALK.
I stayed up all night thinking of ways to back out. Is it horrible to pray for sepsis? Sudden toilet labor after an unknown pregnancy? Deportation? Coma?
And then, they started sending out event emails and press releases announcing the speakers, and there were glossy head shots of men who looked brilliant and wore suits and knew how to use words like billfold (not a scrotum) and stock portfolio (not a scrapbook) correctly in a sentence. I began opening newspapers to see my face staring back at me from full page ads. And I came to the conclusion, I just had to fucking do this.
Even if I sucked. Even if I walked off the stage and left people thinking, why did they pick her to speak, again? Even if no one clapped or laughed and every one shifted uncomfortably in their seats and checked their watches 800 times.
Last Thursday night, we had a dress rehearsal, and as one of only two speakers with a vagina, I was intimidated. Don’t get me wrong, everyone was nice, but with a TED talk titled What I Learned About Life While Standing in the Middle of Times Square in my Bathing Suit, I was thrice referred to as the swim suit girl, and I don’t think anyone thought I had anything profound to say.
I felt defeated and scared to death.
I don’t know how to be good at this, Andy.
You will be amazing.
Or this could be the biggest thing I fail at, ever.
Unlikely. Nothing could beat you half slipping into the grave hole at my grandma’s funeral.
Well that’s for sure, they should mark those better.
Right, with something other than a giant coffin.
A few Xanax later, I was asleep, waking Friday morning at 5:45am feeling at peace.
I had accepted my fate.
What happened, happened.
I arrived bright and early.
I was in the second group of speakers, which was perfect. I wasn’t first, but I wasn’t last, which meant I wouldn’t sit there all day rewriting my talk in my head.
Everyone was amazing. I sat there gripping Andy’s arm, in disbelief that I was chosen to share ideas along side such a group of brilliant people, people with whom, for the rest of my life, I will share this crazy, out of body experience with.
And then it was my turn.
I spoke about my career, and I made a few jokes to disarm everyone enough to make it okay for them to hear every uncomfortable thing I had to say. I spoke about being bullied in elementary school and moo’ed at in the halls during high school. I spoke about being bulimic in college and spending the last decade just trying to stop hating myself. I told them I needed to redefine beauty and how women looked at their bodies, for myself and for my daughter.
I told them I was done just talking about change.
And then, well…
I don’t know how long I spoke.
I can’t remember anyone’s face.
I don’t remember the music I walked onto the stage to, but I’d like to think it was Murder Was the Case by Snoop.
I ended my talk with Thank You and instinctively grabbed my clothes from the floor and ran off stage into the bathroom.
The feeling was indescribable. It was more electric than climaxing or jumping into a pool of cold water.
When I reemerged from the restroom and made my way out to the auditorium at intermission, women embraced me, some even cried. Men hugged me and shook my hand. Reporters interviewed me, and when I finally found my seat next to Andy…he was in tears.
He told me people got up from their seats and cheered, and that he’d never secretly think I had an imaginary job, ever again.
I wish I could remember every moment of that experience, but for the life of me, I can’t. I only remember how I felt when it was over, and how much I hope to one day, very soon, do it again.