I wrote this post a few days ago, and its a little bit out of the norm but I felt I should put it up. Although it is mostly about my personal journey it is actually based on an amazing event that is held here in Salford at the Lowry theatre. It’s an event I highly recommend and one I can’t wait to get back involved with next year.
The last few months have been an emotional rollercoaster for me personally. In June I started a new job as a Travel Alerts Coordinator for a Business Travel management company, a role I hoped would put me amidst one of my favourite past times, learning about the world.
Boy have I learnt a lot about the world.
Just to explain my job briefly, most of my day is spent trawling headline news through websites, twitter, security risk services and many other platforms from different countries that will help identify areas that may affect safety or cause disruption for our clients. Before taking on this job, I never paid much attention to these channels, choosing to be blissfully ignorant to all that was going on around me.
After a few weeks, I felt as if my eyes had been opened, it became exciting, learning about what was happening, seeing stories unfold in front of me and I yearned to know more and more.
A few more weeks passed and it all started to change.
I began to realise the saying ‘no news is good news’ couldn’t be truer. After enduring a month in my new position, over a hundred hours of bad, bad news, the amount of tragedy and destruction that occurred every day started to take its toll. I became angry and frustrated and my ever optimistic outlook on life had been replaced with a new sense of helplessness. Outside of work I threw myself into protests and petitions and grasped at any opportunity to help the causes that I had read so much about.
I had always prided myself on being able to always look on the bright side, but I struggled to get over the stumbling block I was facing trying to make a difference (the fact I am turning thirty in the next year wasn’t helping either).
I decided to invest time and effort into my blog to bring back some sense of direction into my life, a project I could focus on and that I was passionate about. I made a decision to write about all the great trips and journeys I had been lucky enough to have over the years and to hopefully inspire others to follow suit. I made a conscious decision to also try my hardest not to complain about anything that may not have gone right as other blogs had done to raise awareness (after all the bad press I put up with reading, I was not about to contribute anymore!).
Then TEDx came along. I remembered the feeling I got from when I was a guest last year and with me doing well and keeping the momentum with jetsetchick, I thought this would be a great way to help me continue to be inspired and focused. Being involved as a TEDx volunteer was not what I expected. I was first of all surprised by the small number of people that ran the event and the dedication that came from them. Through a number of meetings, online conversations and shared documents the run up was a busy but extremely enjoyable time.
The Friday before TEDx brought the news of Alan Hennings murder. A man from where I live in Eccles who was in the right place doing the right thing, trying to make things better for those less fortunate. I spent most of Friday in a bit of a daze, we had a lot to do in preparation for Sunday and I wanted to help make sure everything was in hand.
Saturday morning was Eid, a day of celebration and happiness. Or so it should have been. I couldn’t help thinking of how Alan’s family must be feeling, how even during one of the most sacred months for Muslims, these barbaric acts were happening, claiming to be a part of the religion I followed and I was confused as to what I could and could not believe about all the news propaganda that was now flying around in full force. I cried. I cried for all of these things but I also cried because there was no answer, no solution, no way of knowing how we could fix this. There was a lot to get done in the next 48 hours so I pushed all my sadness and worries aside and again tried to concentrate on the matter in hand.
I arrived at the final TEDx meeting and the buzz from the volunteers was infectious. Speakers had started to arrive during the day and all the final jobs were being allocated out, ready for the early start ahead of us. In between the meeting Andy, one of the volunteers, and I had to collect a speaker from the airport. The thought of meeting a complex systems theorist, a man who knows the ins and outs of quantitative research and market-stabilizing algorithms, had been worrying me all day when it came to what to talk about with him. The nerves would have kicked in but Andy and I were so busy chatting, my mind didn’t have time to get nervous. It was nice to speak to someone who was younger than me and to hear him talk excitedly about what he had accomplished and what he planned to do in the future. Throughout the weekend I heard more and more about volunteers and their personal goals and it became one of the stepping stones to bringing back my optimism.
As we waited at the airport, I worked through emails and whilst confirming travel arrangements for another speaker, Lucy Hawking, I was touched by her support and the best wishes she expressed for the town of Salford after the sad news of Alan yesterday. Her kind words were unexpected and made me realise there were other people who like me, were looking for ways to help and show they care.
Meeting James and Ladina was also another big boost to changing my opinion of the world. I wrongly assumed that it would be difficult to engage with some of the speakers that were on a completely different level of intellect to my own but that most certainly was not the case. I was blown away by their enthusiasm for being involved with the event, their gratefulness of us doing our best to look after them and how humble and modest they were as human beings. With the speakers I had time to engage with, I picked up the same vibes from them all leaving me with a new found respect for them as people, not just as masters of their profession.
My first experience of listening to the speakers talk about their topics was during the breakout sessions. My first break out was with Jay Bregman. It was an opportunity for me to simply stand still and listen. I listened to him talk us through his journey to how he became who he is. I listened to him as he interacted with the audience and answered their questions on how to not be afraid of failing and that each experience was just another way of learning. And I watched as he instilled that extra bit of confidence to all of us in that room.
My next break out was with Jack Sim, who I assumed would be discussing his organisation and how it all started. Instead we were treated to what can only be described as a 45 minute session on how to truly believe in yourself and trust your own ideas. He encouraged us all to always be happy and to always use that as our goal in life.
I unfortunately wasn’t able to watch all the talks on the day, however the few that I did catch were phenomenal and I almost feel as if somehow my mind knew which talks I just had to see there and then to keep building on the restoration of faith I was working on.
The first one was from Tawakkol Karman, a Nobel peace prize winner. After a summer of attending marches and vigils, her words struck me hard. She managed to address all the doubts and worries I had swimming in my mind from my own experiences and put them at ease as she spoke of her challenges and stressed the importance of commitment to your cause and the importance of a peaceful, peaceful, revolution… peaceful.
I was fixated by Robin Ince and his unbelievable energy and the fact that he had a string of unfortunate events that was keeping him away, yet he still made the effort to get there to share his wisdom with Salford. He discussed the subject of believing in your own mind and the power of it. Delivering a talk about real issues and matters, yet somehow he managed to riddle it with humour.
A video from Amanda Palmer then completely shook my world talking about the importance of connecting with people, all people and to not be afraid to ask for help no matter who you are.
I wish I had been able to see the others, but the beauty of a TEDx event is that at least I will be able to catch the ones I’ve missed online and I can relive them all over and over again and reinvigorate my mind whenever the need arises.
The event soon came to an end and after a clear up we were all off to the final dinner where we could eat (some of us hadn’t had the chance to do this for a while!), drink and relax. We exchanged stories, caught up with things that had happened and generally had a good time. Throughout the night the praises for the event started flooding in, people feeling inspired and energised and between the volunteers, the emotional thank you messages started being exchanged. I have to say I went to bed feeling pretty damn good.
Monday morning. 8:30Am. I sat at my desk to face the morning news. Bad news began to filter through and filled my screen as I expected. I felt the usual pangs of sadness of worry but this time, I also felt a sense of hope.
Hope, because I know these are just a select few stories and that there are hundreds of greater things happening that we don’t always hear about. Hope, because there are many people in this world who believe they can help make a difference and actively help others to realise they can too. Hope, because sometimes it only takes one person to fight for a cause to make change happen.
All this time I had been searching for a direction and a way to move my own life forward, when now I realise that taking part in events like TEDx, engaging and connecting with people and learning from every life experience is enough.
TEDx isn’t for any one type of person. It really is about bringing people together to talk about ideas or things they are passionate about and sharing it with the world. It’s a way of bringing us all together to feel inspired and empowered as individuals.
One day an idea will come to me and I now know that when that day happens, I will be prepared and brave enough to embrace it.