I was lucky to be invited to attend and speak at TED Global this year in Edinburgh. Well, let me be clear…I applied and was accepted, twice. It’s not like I was plucked from the sky or found like a shiny penny. I asked for this. Even knowing this, I was extremely nervous about my talk. Please don’t tell any of my past professors or current supervisors, but I don’t prepare much for the speaking part of public speaking engagements. Generally, I put together a presentation, which is steeped in data, so I know the information backwards and forwards. Add a little of the ham and cheese of my personality and data stretches to become a little entertaining. For this gift, I am certain I have my great-grandfather (my father’s mother’s father) to thank, as he was a politician and circus showman. But, still I was nervous.
I practiced my 4-minute talk at least 30 times. I timed it, I cut pieces, I added details. And, it went well. Which, is and was, an awesome feeling. Strangely though, despite the high of the achievement and the kind accolades from the audience and my friends and family back home, I recognized a deeper and darker emotion present as well. At first I thought maybe it was just the hang-over from the high. But, it’s persisted and in the last 24 hours I’ve come to know it better. Despite basking in the light of praise, having fulfilled a lifelong dream, and embracing a confidence in my intellectual capabilities, the darkness of the second-guessing, sadness that I am not connected, and the fear that I will always be alone persist. And while I feel a little silly and am concerned that I sound ungrateful, I have to acknowledge the polarity of these feelings and their common existence.
I wish there were someone or something that could make me feel better. And there is, but it’s just me and the prescription is easy, but challenging. It’s not that there is something wrong or anything to fix, it’s just acceptance. Accepting what I feel, accepting what I’ve done, accepting who I am. Accepting the constant polarity of how I experience those things and, I hope, bringing a balance between them.