Ever since elements of my story became public via the Humans of New York page just over a year ago, I’ve been convinced that a time would come when I’d need to take the stage and share the story myself.
I knew that in preparation for my talk I would have to face my darkest and most painful memories, and that this would be one of the hardest things I’d ever have to do. And between climbing Everest, the 7-Summits and skiing to both poles, I’d had my share of discomfort.
I applied to speak at TEDxBend back in October 2015. I made the shortlist but not the final cut. For someone who had once-upon-a-time defined success in limited all-or-nothing terms, I was delighted to observe that I was completely at peace with this. It would happen when the time was right. A month later having just regained cell reception after a long remote hike in Nepal I got an email saying that someone had backed out and the spot was mine if I still wanted it. Of course I did!
As preparations kicked off, I began to feel the immense responsibility of honoring my family’s story with utmost vulnerability and truth on this global platform. The talk was on my mind every day for almost 3 months. The last few days were beyond tough; I must have practiced my talk in front of a wall or window over 50 times. When I finally went for rehearsals the day before the event I was nervous and froze several times. The thought of repeating this in front of 1400 people and a larger live streaming audience terrified me.
When I woke up the day of the event I was nervous; I couldn’t eat and rehearsal lingered on my mind. I was chosen to go last which was a blessing but it surely didn’t make things easier. As the day unfolded and I began to listen to the other speakers and feel the energy of the crowd things began to shift. I became humbled by the inner beauty and passion of my fellow speakers and their ability to convey their message with sincerity and openness. And there are no words to describe how special the audience was. It must be so rare to stand on stage with 1400 strangers and feel this kind of immense sense of love and gratitude that almost makes your heart swell with peace.
As soon as I began walking on stage towards that infamous TED red dot, all my tension melted away and I felt completely grounded and present. I felt my beloved Marwa’s presence with me the whole time. As I began to tell my story, I had this distinct feeling that this was not just my journey, it’s everyone’s and this feeling intensified as I got to the shaman story where I was merely a vessel imparting their ancient wisdom. Towards the end of the talk, I felt an incredible lightness of being, and it was as if the room had begun to float with all of us in it.