TEDxYouth: Inspiration, Emotion, Connection

My experience at the TEDxYouth Day at the Hewitt School was something that I was not expecting. I never knew more about it than Bill Clinton once did a speech for the event a few years ago, but I had no idea what I would be hearing, or how I would react to it. It was truly one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had, specifically because of the speakers themselves, and how they addressed the issues they were presenting.

Half of our Fierce and Fabulous: Feminist Women Writers, Artists, and Activists class had to present how we came to our feminist voices in front of a relatively small audience. My anxiety came about twenty minutes before our actual presentation. My hands were trembling, and everyone in my class said about ten times, “Are you nervous? I’m nervous.” It did help knowing others were as jumpy and miserable as I was (I’m no sadist, but that kind of thing helps).

As we were walking up the steps to the small stage, I noticed how blindingly bright the lights were. Like really bright. Not the usually 200-watt bright, but bright enough so that I had to shield myself and think damn, don’t they have a dimmer? It actually helped though, because I could barely see the audience. I grabbed the microphone (calmly) and said the stuff that I wrote down and practiced a billion times the night before. Unfortunately, I have this thing where when I am under an extreme amount of pressure (for my standards), I don’t remember what happened afterwards. Apparently I did well though, because afterwards, more than a few people complimented me on my speech on combating the sexualization of girls and women in the media.

All I remember saying is: “My name is Olivia . . . and you can make a difference,” then I heard some applause. After another five minutes, we sat down, and the rest of the speakers came up. We were the only ones to discuss street harassment and the sexualization of women in the media, which really surprised me, but the rest of the speakers were amazing.

The one that stood out to me the most was the poet, Lo Anderson. Lo spoke about injustices that she and others have experienced, including racism and in war. Her voice flowed smoothly, bellowing and speedily, then it slowed down and allowed everything to sink in our minds. Her language electrified and amplified the experience. And what she spoke of, sadness, loss, and connection, is everything that I can connect to on such a level that it brings out all of my emotions. The things I have felt on a daily basis all came crashing down on me that day. I was so entranced by her poems, by her voice, and the music of both put together, that I allowed my eyes to get a little moist. I thought it would only be a few tears, but by the end, I was a mess. Of course, then came lunch, all the lights came on, and my teacher, Ileana Jiménez, wanted to take a group photo. I went over to her, she saw that I had been crying (it had only been a few minutes, but shedding a single tear makes my face swell and look red) and we exchanged some comforting moments (thank you, by the way) and I rushed to the bathroom. Before that though, Ileana thought I was crying from anxiety over the speech I had to make, and that is probably what other people thought, which is perhaps why they came over to compliment my speech. Of course, I could be over-analyzing and overreacting, but who knows? Anyway, I cried for awhile, but I stopped eventually and then began laughing hysterically just to keep myself from crying again. Way to go, Olivia!

I then met with Lo, and told her my reaction from her poetry. We hugged and I almost cried again; she explained her poetry a little more thoroughly, I thanked her, and we parted ways. She is one of those women that just gets to the core of my being. I know another woman like that, an English teacher at Emerson who writes her own blog, who I knew for about two weeks over the summer and haven’t spoken to her since. There is another woman who makes me feel the same way, but she is a deceased celebrity. I’m too embarrassed to say who she is, but thinking about her and watching her movies makes me cry just a little. The reason why I feel such a deep connection with these women is because I feel we have been through very similar things, and we have had the same feelings. That brings me closer to anyone than anything else.

One thought on “TEDxYouth: Inspiration, Emotion, Connection

  1. The spoken word artists, especially, and the other speakers, almost brought me to tears. I also felt that connection as you did. My connection was with Mega’s poem about feeling ugly and Arthur Levine talking about helping kids get out of the situation they’re in. And I teared up when Kupali spoke about making dreams come true for terminal-cancer patients (my reason is partly because I cry when I see humanitarian things get done, aka I cry watching Extreme Makeover: Home Edition).

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