Last Saturday, I experienced virtually every emotion over the longest 24 hours ever.
I’m an introvert. Just a few years ago, I had decided I would give up on becoming an author simply because it would require speaking.
I’ve come a long way, but giving a TEDx talk in front of more than 1,000 people – any mistakes to forever live online – was an Everest-level challenge.
I couldn’t sleep the night before, layering physical exhaustion onto emotional burnout.
Up at 5:30 am, I was numb while I got ready and anxious as I drove to Kingsbury Hall, but grateful for the quiet and the golden sunlight breaking on the mountains.
After we finished with photos, I put in my earbuds, blasted Eminem’s Lose Yourself, and ran through the transitions in my talk over and over backstage.
It’s been four months of preparing a talk about four years of adversity, trial and error, and incredible peaks of happiness mixed right alongside the breathtaking lows.
Over the past four weeks, I realized that this talk was never just a talk. It wasn’t random that TEDx happened at this time.
This talk was me taking back my story. It’s a turning point of closing a painful chapter, and starting a new one, confident in wide open possibility.
Thankfully, that new chapter opened beautifully (phew!).
I choked up in the final two lines, then cried backstage as I hugged a dozen people, and tried to compose myself while I watched a dear friend nail her own talk right after me, which was futile because I of course cried again as I embraced her.
I hadn’t thought ahead to after the talk.
There was the expected relief and joy, but I was floored by the instant intimacy with those who related to their own rock bottom moment, and the long journey out of hell.
One woman shared her husband’s unexpected suicide two years ago, and finding joy again by going back to school, something she never imagined she would do.
A man shared his own suicide attempt, and finding light at the end of the tunnel through service, donating his time teaching teens how to spot the warning signs.
Yet another shared debilitating depression, and finding hope on a trip to Italy.
And so many came up to say that they had shared the idea with a loved one who is struggling, someone they wish could find that hope.
That sudden, deep connection to so many all in the same space was stunning, and that’s what I will take away: the potential in every single room to go first in vulnerability, to open up our common ground.
Adversity is inevitable. We cannot run. We cannot hide.
To live fully is to invite pain. And also love, meaning, joy, gratitude, redemption, and peace.
Perhaps you have an opportunity in a room in your life to go first.