January 27, 2013 by David
Last Friday I gave a TED Talk at TEDxOU, which I have been preparing for over the past few months. Many TED organizers describe the ideal TED Talk as “the talk of your life,” something – a story, an argument, an invention – which is in some way novel and which lays out your soul bare for the world to see and consider. That’s a pretty tall order, isn’t it? Throughout my preparation I tried to think of what my story could be, what I have to offer the world. At times it was frustrating. What could I, a college student with barely any life experience under my belt, possibly have to tell the world?
I spent hours upon hours and days upon days working with this speech, pulling it apart and shaping it to tell my story just right. In fact I stayed up late into the night hours before my presentation, editing and practicing and editing some more until I was too tired to stay awake any longer. Despite all that practicing and editing, in all of the iterations of my speech, and in all of the times I rehearsed it, I never gave it quite like I gave it on stage in front of hundreds of people.
I don’t know why I wasn’t nervous, but I wasn’t. I hardly even noticed who was in the audience; I don’t remember the little nuances and variations that arise every time you give performance, because all I remember was that I was thinking about my life. I was thinking about the story I was telling and how just several weeks ago I didn’t even think I had one to tell. Yet there I was, on stage, sharing it with the world.
And then it hit me, a realization that for some reason I had never considered before. A realization so powerful and so profound that in the few days since it struck me, it has changed the way I view my existence. And it is this: Your story is worth telling because it is your story. No one in the whole world – no one in all of human history – has your story to tell; and no one can tell it quite like you. And whether or not people can relate to it, it is worth telling because it is unique. Because you are unique.
That is the power of story. Not only can it inspire others and give them permission to tell their stories, it can give you the perspective you need to see your life in full scope. I viewed my life as a collection of incidences, not yet full enough or long enough to warrant telling. But when I viewed it as a story, albeit one that I am still living out, I saw life a little differently. And it was all in the way I looked at things, all because I read my story. Maybe it’s time to read yours.