I'm having such fun. We just watched an amazing talk by Kelly McGonigal on stress. In essence: rethink your stress. If you are social and work with other people through your stress, you'll heal faster. If you think about stress as your brain preparing you for the next event, you'll perform better and have a healthier response. Attitude really is everything.
It reminded me of my first TED experience and how I have changed in the last few years. Especially this past year. I used to be very socially anxious about going to big events. I learned that I do a lot better at them, spend more time getting to know new people, and I feel less socially anxious. Funny, I had to do it alone to figure it out. I started going to events and conferences alone and I got much better at throwing myself right into new conversations. I'm a lot happier to go to things now that I know I can trust myself in new places. It sent me to do research in India, meet awesome mentors at TEDWomen this last fall, and really love being here now. I think, without realizing it, I learned to turn the stress of meeting new people and not knowing what to expect into energy and excitement about engaging with new people and experiences. Worked well for me!
This morning I talked about the trip I am taking to see a friend in Turkey in September with a woman who had gone back packing through Eastern Europe and Turkey 20 years ago (after I fixed a tech glitch on her phone... Look at me being techy!). She lived in Bodrum for a year and made it all sound so magical. I cannot wait to go!
I also talked about informal economic research, India, Brazil, the book I'm doing research for next year, privacy and environmental issues over lunch. It's been a while since someone else was pushing me and digging into other aspects of my research. Such fun.
Of course last night we stayed up late in the bar downstairs. I met the organizer for TEDxMogadishu and we talked about Africa and poachers and Kenya for a while with a TEDFellow from Kenya. I caught up with a friend and former Yale world fellow from Mexico (she is curating a session here and was just named as a cultural minister for Mexico). I had time talking to one of the most inspiring women in my life (she has taken me in as a mentee and is always curious about what I am working on. She is also a hardcore serial entrepreneur, which just adds to how awesome she is) until late.
There was a protest this morning outside of the first session of TEDGlobal because the former prime minister of Greece was speaking. An anti-austerity group sent a few dozen protestors to be outside. They were asked for a question to give the minister, but it seems that didn't work out..
And now Natasha Bedingfield is giving an amazing concert performance!
Admittedly it has only been a few hours of TED and real TED hasn't kicked off yet -- it will happen this evening around 4pm. But I am taking my afternoon coffee and mooching off the free wifi in the coffee shop across the street. The people working behind the counter now recognize me. I guess this is my local version of Woodland Tea and Coffee in New Haven...
This morning was a TED Workshop called, Taming Wicked Problems. I ran into a few of the TEDx organizers that I saw yesterday at the TEDx workshop and also at the reception last night in the Edinburgh castle. The workshop was run by a fellow from Autodesk and Singularity University. We tried a new method of workshopping/problem solving that was really interesting. We weren't allowed to speak, but wrote down different elements of a "wicked problem." Then we stuck them all to the board and had to arrange them into categories, still without speaking. I liked this method of communicating something very complicated [the topic my team picked, at the urging of the woman I was sitting next to at the table, was drug trafficking].
This afternoon Dad and I are going to be part of a filming project that will go up tomorrow... exciting and mysterious, no?
Last night we attended a cocktail party in Edinburgh castle, which was lovely. I talked to some really interesting characters, including one of the speakers for this week who is a specialist in "wild sex" research. I also saw a few of the TEDx organizers that I had met earlier that afternoon when we went to hike King Arthur's seat. The sun doesn't set her until after 10, so we had a beautiful sunny view of the city and walked home still in the sunlight around 10pm.
Well, time to run and get ready for this afternoon's activities!
I got up early this morning, walked to the theater in the now cloudy Edinburgh, and gave my talk! So easy after all the build up haha (it helps that this was my second time and we did a funny stage prep thing to make everyone relax. Rives and Kelly asked us questions like, what was the craziest thing that you did for love? to make everyone laugh. My question was: what is your worst habit? Funny, because I am going to work for Kelly after Global... It was hard to come up with something on the spot, so I said that I get really frustrated when people walk slowly on the sidewalk and I usually grumble to myself).
My talk will go up later under the TEDx resources page for University students looking to start or continue with their university level TEDx events. I was covering the basic issue of University vs TEDx branding and how to build a partnership with your university. 4 minutes. Alongside some really wonderful TEDx organizers from TEDxParis, TEDxBerlin, TEDxKhartoum, TEDxChange and TEDxCity2.0.
Me with Kelly Stoetzel on the TED Stage after my talk
Kelly and Rives MCing for the TEDx Organizers workshop
So much fun to be here. My Dad was also in the audience, taking some pictures and adding commentary for when I finished speaking. Rives pointed out that we might be the only Father-Daughter TED team at Global right now. He also mentioned our friends Robin and Cameron, a Mother-Daughter team that has been at TED together before. I wish they were here this year too!
I have a little down time before I go on the TEDx organizers hike on the beautiful hill tops just outside the city. There are a few sessions this afternoon based on specific issues that organizers have encountered during there work, but Dad and I ducked out to check email in a coffee shop and get through some work.
Some news from today:
The next TEDx Summit will be in.... BERLIN!!!!!!!!
For those of you who dont know, I love Germany and particularly Berlin. This is wonderful news.
There will also be a TEDCity2.0 event this year in New York, TEDWomen has moved out to California (Tiffany and I are trying to figure out how we get there...) and organizers around the world are pooling together data and tips for videos on TEDx How Tos that are going online. So look for them!
So that's my update for now. We start official TEDGlobal tomorrow! More time for me to play today.
I got an interesting challenge from Rives, which will be my goal for the week: he said that I am clearly comfortable on stage speaking candidly about things I know something about... so why not try being funny? Or... spoken word.
So there we go! The push I needed -- I'll look for some space for me to give it a try in New York. And, as he put it, push until it doesn't work anymore.
This was the speech I wrote and submitted to present at Class Day. I was not selected to speak in the end, but I was a finalist so it was published in a small collection of other students speeches that was given to every member of the class of 2013. It's not online yet, so I thought I'd put it up for anyone who wanted to read it.
Maybe we’re a
little lost right now. But don’t let that scare you, don’t laugh nervously and
shrug it off. Let’s talk about it.
We are just graduating
and the world is ours to explore. No more pre-set path, it’s all out there to
make your own. We spent evenings wondering how we will measure our own impact
and what we want to learn along the way. Maybe some of us have a final goal on
the horizon, a dream we want to turn into a reality, but we wonder what steps
we need to take along the way.
Somewhere along the
way, Yale gave me something I still treasure – it gave me a lens with which to
consider myself – as an individual and as a member of this community. It built
a community of scholars and friends. It gave us the space to be introspective –
to ask ourselves, and others, hard questions.
How will you use
your time and value your results?
In the endless list
of possibilities, what will you decide matters enough for you to add your own
unique touch to it and call it your own? What will you remember as a defining
moment of your time here? That value system was yours alone to decide.
The character you have become and will keep molding over time
comes from your experiences. It comes from days spent wandering through undiscovered
corners of your neighborhood, conversations with your suitemates on the floor
on your common room until 4 am, and long drives with a mentor figure. Nights
where you bent over your desk long into the night cracking codes and accepting
that glorious Eureka! moment. Minutes where the song played by your friend on
the cello explained exactly what you were feeling but couldn’t explain with
Celebrate your uniqueness and everything that you’ve learned
here, but please, don’t stop evaluating yourself.
We each invite time for introspection into our lives: For some,
it means long, abstract conversations about values, and for others it means
meditation or experiments. Maybe it was a long walk through a park with nothing
but the sound of joggers passing you and gravel crunching beneath your feet, or
maybe it was a pause, between pages, while you read something that really
engaged you. Wherever that space was – where you felt uncomfortable, where you
examined yourself and your decisions, where you decided what mattered to you most
– protect it.
Here comes a
thought experiment: Maybe we are lost. But we are forging our way from here on
Don’t you see? You
will be the deciding factor in your journey. There isn’t a checklist anymore,
because you have the freedom to decide what comes next.
You will be afraid
sometimes. This is not the last time you will feel uncertain or confused about
your direction in life. It’s also not the first time you’ve experienced it.
If you give
yourself the bedrock of integrity that comes from knowing who you really are
and what you want to make out of your life, no one can ever take that away from
you. It is yours to guide you through whatever comes next.
You will probably
never leave these conversations with black and white answers to your problems –
but regardless of the other people in your life, your new environments,
friends, jobs… you’ll be able to make better decisions in that moment about
what you truly want holistically. That was what Yale wanted for you. It sought
to build leadership through scholarship and character. You have some of the answers
you need to ground you through the uncertainty and fear.
Be open to the world around you and learn from the people you
meet. You will never stop being a student. There will be situations that
challenge you again and force you to question what you stand for, but know
yourself and what you value, and you will make decisions that you can live
I hope your last days here and everywhere are spent with the
knowledge that you want to be where you are or where you are going, in that
moment. No one can ever take that away from you.
The first edition happened last summer in the monsoons of Mumbai. This edition comes from a new Chelsea resident as she gears up for TEDGlobal and the TEDx organizers workshop on June 9th.
Just as recap for people who missed the last one, I am not actually vegan or any of those other things. A friend coined this label for me a few years ago jokingly and it kind of stuck with some of our other friends. It is all in jest.
Well, a year ago I was living in an apartment in Colaba, waiting for the rains to come and take away the heat of Mumbai's early summers. I've come to the point where I miss India. I was reading Shantaram over the last few weeks and it made me miss it even more. I could imagine the scenes taking place in different areas of the city where I spent a good deal of time last summer. I could feel the heat burning my arms and the rains flowing in and out of my plastic shoes.... it was such a treat to read something that took me back there as much as this book did.
Sometimes it takes a year to see and remember what is worth seeing/remembering. For me, anyway, this is very true. I have a few friendships and projects that took time to settle and be everything that I hoped they would be.
Most importantly, I think I learned that we really can't expect every experience/relationship/project to turn out the same way. That seems really basic, especially when I write it out, but it took me a while to process that -- especially with friendships. We learn different things from different people. Why shouldn't the relationship reflect that? I think I'm a lot happier in understanding that we're all trying to do our best being ourselves. And in that, we all have to give a little bit of space to quirks and character. Just as people have to do with me. Plus, it would be really boring if all friendships were identical and taught you the same things. So, really, this is a good discovery for me.
This granola cruncher is getting ready now to leave for TEDGlobal. A perfect loop -- I went for the first time after I graduated from High school, and now I am back. As a recent college graduate. I'm excited to be back in the TEDx organizers Workshops -- TEDxYale is presenting best University level TEDx practices this time. So I'll be up there, giving a 4 minute talk alongside some other really awesome organizers from different TEDx conferences around the world. And then, of course, there is the part where we'll be in beautiful historic Edinburgh...
I think life works in loops sometimes -- as I said before, I rarely say "Goodbye" because there is a good chance that I will be back in some capacity in the future. I think I like it that way.
Yes, people do move on and fill gaps in their lives when we leave. But sometimes it doesn't matter as much -- like those friendships you go back to after months and it's exactly the same. Sometimes it changes things a lot, but the friendship matures with it. And other times, things need to fade into the background because it is healthier for both of you. There is nothing wrong with that, either.
While some of my friendships from home have grown and shifted with the past few years, we all found ourselves downtown watching the Bruins game in a sports bar last night. Things have changed -- we talked about the apartment and job search instead of things we were talking about in our classes or doing that weekend, but we're still friends. More seasoned, we love Boston more fiercely as a resulting of moving out of the city and being able to come back. I think we only grew to love it more after the Boston Marathon this spring...
So. Here's to time and patience and friendships that can grow along with you.
Towards the end of the year, I had a hard time juggling things. The salon series we were running on feminism and integrity had to take second place to my thesis after march break. I spent all free time writing and finishing up some research -- honestly, class time started to feel like me study breaks. I was social -- other year long thesis writers and I crowded together in coffee shops and libraries for near all-nighters, reminding each other that we loved the topics. Just this piece was getting rough.
I am excited to say that my turned in thesis (by no means a finished product) was something that I am still proud of. It has introduced me to some really interesting thinkers, historians and now a future research proposal or two that I hope to continue while I start my regular person job. (Which, let's be honest, isn't too regular either).
But now, back on track. I'm reading all of the interesting pieces that I wish I had read earlier this semester (that said, there is no time like the present!) and gearing up to launch the New York start of the salon series.
We already have something lined up a practice with another group that we met along the way with a similar but perhaps less feminist directed curriculum. It will be great to be back in the swing of the salons now that Tiffany and I are in the same city again. We met for lunch yesterday outside her office building and talked about the next few months and how we want to push this forward.
It will be interesting for me to figure out how to balance working with the salons and my continued drug wars research... though actually it is the best of many worlds as it is right now. I do some freelance research on the side, which makes me learn about different kinds of models and thinking going on around organized crime. It's interesting work. And naturally, a nice thing to keep my head in the game while I work on other projects that are more immediately useful.
All of that is a long way of saying, we're back on track with the salons and gearing up to launch the New York pilot, inter-generational awesome feminist salon series that we started at Yale in a sort of Beta level this past spring. Go team!
Like a good oped, the best commencement speeches, in my opinion, are the honest ones. Not the ones meant to be political or self promoting, not the ones that tell me what I want to hear. The ones that come from crusty and well earned experiences. Not necessarily the most glamorous ones.
Now that I am reading Infinite Jest, it makes this speech all the more wonderful to read. I love the voices that he is able to use and communicate ideas that really get inside your head and heart. Naturally, I have to include David Foster Wallace's This is Water from the 2005 Kenyon Commencement address. Funny, mere days after I read this for the first time, I had an argument about race and privilege with a man who used to teach a seminar series at Yale. This is Water was the opener to my argument.
This speech, Fail Safe by Debbie Millman, is deliciously honest about the choices that we make along our adventures. I loved it, because it reminds me how often we find ourselves mid thought as we move through our lives and make decisions based on our guts and whatever other information we decide to let in. How often I have made decisions purely based on my strong instinctual reactions to things... and for me, that has been great. I had an excellent college experience, made some really close friends, taken on some great projects and found my ways of being happy. Even when everything else felt like Chaos.
I don't have a transcript, by one of my dear friends appears in this video alongside Mayor of Newark Cory Booker in his Yale 2013 Class Day speech. I really enjoyed how much his talk and President Levin's talk during Baccalaureate centered around activism and participating in the world around us. This is what I had been hoping to hear for years at Yale -- take on responsibility, have a stake in your community, and work on interesting problems.
I was also digging the line from the Soledad O'Brien speech at Harvard 2013 that my mom clipped out of the newspaper to save for me:
“Do not listen to others people’s take on the life you should lead,” O’Brien told the audience of seniors, families, and friends gathered in Tercentenary Theatre today for the Class Day ceremony. “By not listening, you can figure out what your heart is telling you to do.” “People can be mean and unfair, but more—far, far more—people are good and generous and helpful and hopeful,” she declared, adding, “That means you are going to have to lead with an open heart. And it also means that that little heart is going to get stomped on a few more times than you would like.” (requoted from Harvard Magazine)
And perhaps, a more directed version of this advice, came to me from a mentor figure that I was lucky enough to find this semester. We could not be more different -- this professor finds my research fascinating, "fringe" and proof that my brain is an "unusual place."
He said to me, on the last evening that we sat down for a 2 hour talk about what the hell comes next for me...
You have an unusual mind. The road that you have picked and will pick will never be easy, because you are not traditional. You will always be questioned and you will always be alone. You will find allies, but they are not going to be in your head. It is beautiful and terrible at the same time. But you can and will do it. As if there could be a better introduction into the world, than having someone you admire tell you to go out and do your thing, whatever that may be. Good luck!
A dear friend of mine (actually, two friends of mine) are enlisting. One of them entertained me with stories of his experience in a nearby ROTC program (since Yale, until recently) did not offer a program for it. He woke up earlier than most of us ever did and worked very hard, making friends and learning a discipline that I was never exposed to besides the conversations that we shared on the topic. His commitment was inspirational to a lot of us. And it was a pleasure to open my email this morning and glow with pride for his accomplishments.
Though I was able to learn more about it over the course of the year, I came from a very academically focused family. We value service and I have devoted a lot of time to find ways to serve and solve interesting problems. But this service is very different in its mindset and goals.
It was a transition for me to embrace. The other friend is someone I have known for many years now and has been adopted into my life in a way I never really expected from someone whose politics are very different from mine. First we learned to coexist and respect each other, and quickly we became very close friends. We're both pretty quirky. I think that's what did it.
So when he told me for the first time that he planned to enlist once we graduated, I watched him with the same measured stare that he gave me from across the table. "Oh. " was all I could muster.
I am endlessly proud of him. The same way I am of my own younger brother. Though he was too modest about his accomplishments to tell me things himself, like when his next cross country race would be, or that he was killing it at higher level physics, math, and economics classes, or when he did particularly well in a race. I learned how to ask. Though too often I forgot to.
It was a year (or several years) of tomorrows. I would go to his race, tomorrow. We would catch up, tomorrow. There was always tomorrow. We sure as hell enjoyed the todays. The todays when we went to a driving range (golf) and both tried to see who could hit the golf ball furthest (he won), or hit the truck picking up the balls (I won), and ended up ripping the skin off my hands because I only know how to swing golf clubs the way I learned to use a field hockey stick. I think he pulled a muscle in his arm that day. Clearly, neither of us had any idea what we were doing and probably looked ridiculous. The todays were early morning runners to our favorite diner, no matter how early he had to leave the next day. Or the afternoons when he would dry the running clothes that he had used earlier on his car, after he washed them in our sink, and my mom would insist that he try the washing machine upstairs. Or the afternoon when I called him after the marathon bombings and he tried to make it better. We had a lot of todays. But always with the promise of tomorrow. He wasn't going away... yet.
This is how I have conceptualized my goodbyes: it's not goodbye, almost ever. It's not hard to stay in touch or reach out, and we may very well cross paths again. We can have years of todays and tomorrows.
But I am wary of putting too little weight in the time that I do have with some of my friends before we part ways in the directions we've decided to take. It's not goodbye, but time and space add their own elements to friendships, relationships and conversations. We wont always have shared contexts.
He left with a friendship bracelet that I made for him -- just like I did our freshman year. I guess, in that way, I'm still right there, as he knows I always will be. Even when I cannot be physically present.