The following post was written by 12th grade student Yada P. following her recent appearance as a speaker at TEDxChiangMai. Learn more about the subject of Yada’s talk at Light Footsteps Dance Initiative.
“When I was six, I was mute.” Those were the words that started off what would be an 11-minute-long talk, words coming out of slightly trembling lips. A clicker in my left hand and dance shoes beneath my feet, I was frozen. This was my TEDx talk. Not the many practices sneaked between class periods or the numerous reviews in my head. This was it.
Reality and romanticism go hand in hand, but as of now they were two separate entities. On the one hand is the spirit of TED, of ideas worth giving. For a person such as myself, the girl who sings in the shower and trips over her own feet, it hardly seems possible to be described as encompassing that spirit.
All around, the room stilled and words started flowing. And in the room five hundred people listened: some maybe hungry, some maybe tired. But even if a few people listened and were impacted by the talk, this effort and this entire performance, it would have been worth it.
Because essentially, the talk is about hospital children and the dilemma of hospital children. Even if only a few people listened that is a few people who will tell their friends about the initiative and the cause, and maybe they will start helping hospital children elsewhere. And if there are enough individuals, they could turn into a collective voice that cannot be ignored.
After the TEDx talk, which went smoothly despite a few hesitations in speech, applause filled the room coming at me from all sides. But even with the applause, even with the relatively smooth talk, “I should haves” were still running through my head.
The rest of the pre-lunch speeches blurred into lunch, and as the audience began standing up to break for food, five different people came and approached me. Before I could even get to the aisle, a woman had grabbed me into a hug, squeezing tightly. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” she beamed, eyes still glistening with tears. “That was so beautiful.” She was Singaporean living in Thailand, and, in fact, worked with a charity who also taught their children the arts. There were others too, including the US Consul who has a friend with a dance charity in Mexico.
All of these people who have done so much, been through so much, and come out thriving. These people were the ones who, in my eyes, should have been on the stage. They all refused to be a part of the mold that so many often follow; they were poets, artists, and entrepreneurs. These are the ones that are making change happen; here, that phrase is not a cliche. From talking to a social entrepreneur in New Zealand about his thoughts on the current education system to discussing passion with an award-winning graphic designer from Kuala Lumpur. Just talking to these people evokes such a sense of childlike wonder. We are pressured every day to go down the “safe” route, to go to high school and college, to become successful and rich at a respected occupation. These people refused to lose their childlike curiosity. They refused to see the limitations that society has imposed upon its people.
Afterwards, while sipping iced tea with a hill tribe villager turned successful urban coffee shop entrepreneur, I looked around at all of this potential and the “I should haves” were silenced. The idea was enough because an idea is an idea, no matter how earth-shattering or how local. The talk was enough; it is in the past now, and we must believe that our best is enough. The speakers were enough. The connections were enough. We were enough.
I came to the stage still plagued with the angst and insecurities associated with adolescence, but I also left it there. And if I, a girl who used to shy at the prospect of talking to anyone can do it, who else can? And if more youth realize that they are enough, not only playing with the concept but actually feeling it, just imagine what can happen.
The possibilities… The possibilities…