Back to the Past – Returning Home for TED

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boston air view

I look out the window to a familiar view. It hasn’t changed much since the first time I looked upon it 27 years ago. A dark city below illuminated with flickering lights, enticing my then six year old eyes with the prospect of adventure and possibility. It seems as if a lifetime has passed, and in many ways it has. Since my last time in Boston, I’ve gone across the country, then later halfway across the world. I’ve surfed with dolphins, jumped off the highest bungee tower in the world, and nearly drowned in paradise. I’ve lost myself, found myself, fallen in love, then lost and found myself all over again. My DNA felt altered from my experiences, and I was a completely different person. But looking out at that familiar view, a part of me knew I was coming home.

It’s not easy returning to a place that you feel you’ve outgrown. No matter how much you feel you’ve changed, the past always latches on to you in some way. “Remember when you were like this?” it whispers to us. Everywhere you look, something reminds you of your former self. You feel as if just being here will start undoing all of the change you’ve made. Old habits and insecurities resurface. Former ways of thinking re-instilled.

Eight years ago I made the decision to leave Boston. I had a good job, a nice apartment, and a close circle of friends. Yet I felt incredibly unfulfilled. It seemed as if the last five years were spent chasing a goal that I realized brought me no joy. All this training and preparing, but no living. I knew I needed to make up for lost experiences, and this became my internal pull to move away from my home of 18 years. Call it a thirst for adventure. A need to start over. Or maybe it was just that staying here could no longer contain the change I wanted to make within myself.

My cabbie flies across the city streets with the reckless aggression that could only be that of a Boston driver. As we maneuver out of the tunnels surrounding Logan Airport, recognition starts to greet me outside the window. Memorial drive, Charles River, that familiar Cambridge cityscape. The time capsule of memories continues to unravel.

I arrive at the fanciest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. I swear I used to ride my bike over the entrance rug some 20 years ago. Facing the Kenmore bus terminal, I can see Boston’s indigenous Citgo sign from my room window. It’s weird seeing it now from this context. What was previously a sight I saw as a pedestrian or commuter was now the view from my luxury hotel room. I check the rest of the layout – king size bed, living room, countertop with a sink and Keurig, and two TVs.

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This was crazy. This is like that scene from Blue Crush (a movie I watched days before arriving in Boston) where Kate Bosworth wakes up as a guest in the 5-star hotel that she’d previously worked in as a maid. As much as I try to channel my inner corporate douchebag, I’m still a budget-conscious world traveler at heart. I needed to tone it down a notch. Something to dull all the fancy and make this place feel a bit more like me.

There we go.

That’s more like it.

Now let’s move all the living room furniture and make it into a dance floor 🙂dance

Alright, next on the agenda: Food!

In true world traveler fashion, I find a hole in the wall Indian restaurant that had survived the test of time. Table for one, please. Scattered around me are local college kids deep in hot food and intense discussion. While chewing on my meal, I hear the word “Akatsuki” from a neighboring table. My nerd alarms are instantly triggered. There were talking about Naruto! That was one of my favorite anime series before… well before I grew out of anime. Another conversation included the words “Hunter”, “Shaman”, and “deck”. Hold on, I knew this one too. Hearthstone! I smile because I love nerds. This homecoming was starting to feel better with each passing minute.

With hot food in stomach and nerd talk in memory, my morale was at an all time high. It was getting late but I wanted to walk a bit. Tomorrow was booked with rehearsals and events, and TED loomed just the day after. But before I let myself get caught up in the whirlwind, I wanted to say hello to my city.

Commonwealth Ave. Even nighttime can’t disguise the history. The buildings are condensed and packed close together, yet their architecture gives off character and even hints at warmth. Kenmore Square. The old stomping grounds for ticket scalpers, ATM visits before the bars, and late night McDonalds after them. Lansdowne. A street that transformed from a bustling extension of Fenway Park during the day, to a who’s who of club goers and bar hoppers at night.

I arrive at the House of Blues. This is the venue of the biggest performance of my life, and it’s all happening in two days! I wanted to make some sort of connection. I needed to know that we had some compatibility before we commit to this life changing event. Alas, the doors were closed and the bouncer was eyeing me suspiciously. I continue walking. There’s something on the wall. I turn to look at it.

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I think I found my drift compatible venue. Of ALL THE THINGS that could have been on this wall. Of ALL THE COMPANIES that could have sponsored this place. They picked the one with MY FREAKING NAME. I’m the official motherfucking vehicle of The House of Blues. What is that shit! It felt as if my estranged city came over after a long separation, put his hand on my shoulder, and said with that familiar grin, “Welcome home, bitch”.

Game on, Boston. Game on.

TED Blog Series

Part 6: 5 Powerful Lessons I Learned as a TED Speaker
Part 5:
My TED Talk
Part 4:
The Day Before TED
Part 2: In the Air – En Route to TED
Part 1: 4 Weeks to Inspire the World – Becoming a TED Speaker

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