In the fairy tale, Cinderella, the clock chimes midnight. Her chariot turns back into a pumpkin. Her clothes become a disheveled mess, a stark contrast from the glorious ballgown she wore while dancing with the prince. All she has left are memories of the best night of her life.
I do not live in a pumpkin. I do not own disheveled clothes. I am still living my “happily ever after” complete with the prince; however the morning after my TEDx talk, I could relate to Cinderella. The magic of the night was gone, leaving a melancholy feeling in my spirit for at least one brief moment. A single glass slipper tucked away in my pocket, the memory of the magic tucked inside my heart. Then I began to reflect and smiled.
I knew that I was chosen to share the most powerful story of my life. What I did not know was how that story would creep back into my heart and peek inside my soul from deep crevices I thought were hidden. I forgot the pain of losing my first-born son. I forgot the darkness. I forgot the intense grieving. Reliving those intimate scenes reconnected me to my story – and my son – in a very powerful way for which I’m truly grateful.
It feels now as though my son has been reborn with renewed purpose. I expected to feel fulfilled in sharing his story, but I did not expect to feel such immense pride. I’m proud that I was chosen to be his mother. He died ten years ago and yet he continues to live on through his story. His purpose touches the lives of countless people grappling with their own pain. How did I get so lucky to be chosen as the communicator for his life?
Weeks leading up to the talk, I felt very much “over it.” I was just about one week out from presenting and sleep evaded me. 3:00 A.M. became my wake-up call, and I would lie in bed repeating and reviewing my talk no less than three times every single night. I would make minor changes, obsess over minutiae, then remind myself that I was chosen for a reason.
On Halloween, I took my son trick-or-treating with a knot in my stomach. I was honestly more nervous about rehearsals the next day than I was about the event itself. I was extremely anxious to present in front of the other speakers. If they heard my story in rehearsals, how would the story continue to impact them the day of when it had to count? I honestly resisted the idea, until rehearsals actually came.
Once I entered the auditorium, I saw the stage and oh, what a stage it was. It was not like the stages I’m familiar with. It was a global stage, and my excitement began to rise. The feelings of anticipation and even relief escalated when a few of the speakers “choked.” I thought, “Wow. As established as these leaders are in world, they are just like me: nervous.” I also truly appreciated the amazing coaching I heard from each speaker. I found it incredibly valuable and as each speaker presented, our group grew closer. We bonded through our stories, our nerves, and our need to be connected. Hugs were exchanged, along with tears, and heartfelt praise. Honestly, rehearsal day solidified my love for the TEDx journey and crew.
Many of the speakers in our group mentioned that they got no sleep the night before the main event; I on the other hand slept soundly. Perhaps it was the eight-hour rehearsal day. Or maybe it was the very personal hour I spent sitting inside the window frame in my hotel room in prayer. Either way, I felt as though I was truly ready.
The day was, for lack of a better word, magical. From the emotional highs and lows of each speaker, to the praise I received from the audience in a resounding standing ovation, I felt as though this “bucket list day” was everything I had hoped for and so much more.
All 36 speakers are now connected by our stories, our desire to succeed, and our experience of sharing the honor and privilege of standing on that red carpet. I can truly say I will never forget the way the rug felt under my multi-colored flats, nor the way I felt wiping away tears as I sat in the audience, listening to so many powerful talks. I will never forget the kindness of the TEDx tribe, nor will I forget feeling a part of something far bigger than myself.
If I can impart any wisdom to someone wanting to share their own story on the TEDx platform, it would be to embrace their vulnerability. Something happened to me as I allowed my own story to touch me once again to my very core and I allowed those emotions to reverberate of the walls of an auditorium and into the souls of the audience. Let go, is what I would say to future TEDx speakers. Let go and be free.