Sometimes getting what you want is scary as hell.
I almost didn’t apply to TED this year. It was a last minute decision, and I decided to do it right this time. Poring over my application, I answer the questions with a determined eloquence. They’re going to understand me this time. I’m going to inspire them with my words. I hit submit. I wait for several weeks. Three follow up emails, long hours, and a few hurriedly written drafts later, I get the news. I’m so spent that I couldn’t even muster up the energy to be excited. No celebratory back handsprings down the office hallway, just a few texts and some much needed Korean BBQ.
These last few months have brought a lot of big changes. Ending a four year relationship with my girlfriend. Moving to a new place. Being alone for the first time in a long time. All these things have drastically altered my life that becoming selected as a TED speaker felt like just another splash in this flood of change.
Once things settled down and new environments started becoming familiar, the thoughts came. Who are you to give a TED Talk? What happens if you fuck up? Are you even ready for this moment? Much of who I am today is the result of being inspired by others. Now that it was time to impart inspiration on a scale of such magnitude, I felt… not worthy.
Being alone with my thoughts, I became nostalgic. I realized that after four years of adventure, travel, and a loving relationship, I’ve completed the cycle. I’m back to where I was, and it was time to get reacquainted with the old me, the me that I’ve lost touch with.
I think back to everything that has brought me to this moment. It started with giving up control, which ironically enough is the theme of my TED Talk. A reluctantly accepted invitation for a day trip to Maine replaced what would have been a weekend of disciplined practice in a murky pool hall. That day opened my eyes to everything that I was missing out on pursuing my personal goals. I quit pool a week later and decided to start living for experiences. Soon after, I left for California, using business school as a means to relocating to a place where I could surf year round and live a carefree life. Despite having graduated with high honors, I set aside my degree and any prospects for starting a career to follow a whim (mentioned in passing by a classmate) of becoming an English teacher abroad. I get placed in a city that was my last pick, but ended up meeting two people there that became my best friends. I started dating one of them, a wonderful girl from Sacramento, and began a four year relationship that eventually brought me back to California. While in Korea, I get selected as one of the two representatives to give a speech to an audience of 600 English teachers at our orientation. I killed it. It was awesome. I get 2nd place in an essay contest. That was pretty rad. I get diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and received my first colonoscopy by age 30. That fucking sucked. I continuously battle the disease, falling pretty ill several times and losing hope of a normal life. I randomly click on a video posted by a friend on Facebook. I get inspired by Ido Portal. I start trying out this whole movement thing, and also this Paleo diet that he preaches about. I GET BETTER! Thankful of my newfound health and energy, I make movement my focus and a piece of my identity. I return to Sacramento with my girlfriend. I find out that my old company has an office in Sacramento and get a job there. I find out they have a partnership with TED. I apply to TED. I get accepted.
It’s fairly common to think about all the things you would do differently if you could live your life again. What’s more rare is to reflect on all the events in your life that had to occur in perfect sequence to bring you to where you are today. And I’m grateful for today, the today that the universe pushed me all the way from Maine 2007 to experience. Because 4 weeks from today, I’m going to inspire the world.