The Day After TEDxSomerville

TEDxSomervilleYesterday I spent twelve hours at the TEDxSomerville conference cycling between feeling nervous, exhilarated, overwhelmed, and, if we’re honest, sometimes a little sleepy.  What can I say, it was a long day.

Of those twelve hours I spent a mere ten minutes onstage.  I was so honored to be there, standing in front of a rock-climbing gym full of my friends, strangers, and neighbors.  Ever since I was a little kid, nicknamed Tallulah for my dramatic exits, I’ve always loved to perform.  There is nothing more fulfilling for me than sharing a true, deep moment with another person.  Or with several hundred other people.  Yesterday was a perfect example of that kind of moment.

But the best part wasn’t when I was onstage.  The best part was afterwards, when people took me aside to tell me what they make or what they found out that someone else makes.  One couple told me that they had taken my challenge, gone up to a stranger, asked what she makes, and found out that she was a sculptor.  A guy who teaches down in Connecticut showed me, beaming, what his shirt said: “I make a difference everyday.”

The day continued with an after-party at Aeronaut Brewery –yes, they did let me in with a very carefully marked DO NOT SERVE wristband– where I met a scientist who makes catalysts, a husband and wife who make 3-D prints of Minecraft, and a woman who makes furniture.  Towards the end, flamenco guitarist Juanito Pascual gave us a follow up concert while co-host Devin Bramhall and I pretended we knew how to dance flamenco.

And then, this morning, my alarm went off at 7:30 and it was time to get up for work.  My arms were sore from the exercises Bekka Wright, mastermind behind BikeyFace, and I did to get some energy for our session three talks.  In fact, my whole body felt like a two-year-old turning her nose up at vegetables when I told it to get out from under the covers.  But get up I did and I drove my forty minute commute through rain and hail to go sit in an office where a few people politely asked how my talk went before we got down to work.

Now, I know that some people are cynical of TEDtalks.  All of these wide-eyed speakers claiming they can change the world one inspirational line at a time.  What they’re missing is that all of us wide-eyed idealists show up to work the next day.  Drained and slightly deflated at the way daily life pales in comparison to a TEDx conference, we still try our damndest to get as close to our lofty goals as we possibly can.  I always tell people that though I will fight my entire life to reach utopia, I hope I never get there.  Because then what do we have left to make?

The true value of an event like TEDxSomerville is as much about we do the day after as it is about the event itself.  It’s getting up the next day to shift through emails, business cards, and tweets you didn’t see, taking the time to reach out to each person who has reached out to you.  The time to develop the community of which a day like TEDxSomerville is only one (wonderful) piece.

– – – – – –

“Finding passion is a lot like falling in love 
and I don’t mean that in a good way. 
I mean that in a gut-wrenching, heart-aching, throat-clenching, 
spirit-breaking way. 
We’ve all been told how it should happen, 
how it should feel, 
they say we’ll be swept off our feet, 
dumped in a fairytale, 

and then we’ll be happy.

The thing is, 
passion isn’t something you follow. 
It follows you
Dogging your every step 
from now until oblivion, 
driving you forward day after day 
to do what you love even when you hate it. 
And there will be days when you hate it. 
Because passion isn’t happiness, 

it’s drive.

It’s a drive that runs so deep you can never turn it off, 
that can be so miserable you wish you could tear it out of you 
but you can’t, 

because it is you.

Because passion isn’t only falling in love, 
it’s daily toil of being in love. 
It’s the afternoon arguments, 
the evenings of silence,
the late night tears. 
It’s the creeping doubt, 
the endless effort, 
the constant demand. 
It’s the moment you look at your lover standing there beside 
the teapot you were arguing about two days ago
and you think, 
“Oh, this is what everyone was talking about.” 
And for that day love comes freely 

and passion is easy.

But those days, 
the ones when clouds fly down from the sky 
just so that you can walk on them 
do not come often. 
So cherish them. 
Remember them when you have to show up the next day 
even though the clouds are gone. 
Because passion is worth working for. 
It is a fire that runs through your veins, 
not caring whether it’s warming you or eating you alive, 
but filling you either way. 
It is a lifetime of dedication 
with sparks of inspiration that are almost like the fairytales, 
but better.”   -an excerpt from Don’t Make Art, Just Make Something

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