I gave a talk. And now it’s on the internet. And now I am watching it and having all the thoughts that I imagine many people have when they watch themselves give a talk: What is going on with my hair? And my weird t-rex arm gestures? Is my face always this expressive—and should I think about toning it down a little? And: These ideas should be reorganized. And: That’s not what my voice sounds like.
I would like to do about twenty things differently. But whatever: I stood on the red circle and I gave a talk! And the audience was very kind. And now it’s on the internet, so wishing I could just hold my arms by my side in a post-Jurassic way is useless.
The strange thing about giving a talk like this is that over weeks of practice your delivery becomes disconnected from your ideas. Rehearsal forces you to separate the words from the sentiment. The words aren’t meaningless but the real emotion is displaced by redundancy–and nervousness. Or that was my experience. And maybe, in my case, this is the thing that makes it possible to get on stage and say things that, in retrospect, I would be too self-conscious to ever confess to a stranger. (“Hey, person I don’t know, guess what: I just want someone to love me.” Gross.)
I spent the entire day before the talk walking around Venice Beach and looking at everyone I saw—the barista and the bartender and the skateboarders and the weightlifters and the t-shirt hawkers—and wondering why I chose to make a career writing (and now talking—on a stage!) about the most intimate parts of my life. And if I had to write, why couldn’t I be more wry or funny or weird or cynical? Why sincerity?? Somewhere along the way I’d made a huge miscalculation.
But then I drank my new favorite thing—bourbon with a side of pickle juice (I know: hipsters! But trust me. It’s the best thing you’ve never tried.)—and I went back to the hotel and practiced about ten more times and the sentiment fell away again. I was the last speaker of the day and by the time I walked on stage, my only concern was making it from the beginning to the end. And I did. And the audience laughed at my dorky jokes.
So now the link to this talk arrives just as my relationship is having a difficult week. Maybe the most difficult week. And despite my frizzy hair (I’d thought LA wasn’t humid…), and my nervous smiling, and the fact that my voice doesn’t sound like my voice, I watched it and I remembered all the things I’d been feeling when I wrote the talk weeks earlier. And, honestly, I am kind of impressed with myself.
I’d been reading books and listening to podcasts in hopes of arriving at some sensible way of thinking about what it means to love someone. And there, despite the flaws, was some useful insight in my own talk. (tl;dr: love is always risky and hard and we should talk about this stuff more openly.)
So, what does it mean that I can’t even retain my own insights–just two weeks later–when things get difficult? (ugh.) Are we all stuck with our weird insecurities forever, despite all the work we put into noticing and dealing with them? (Probably.) Am I now invested in a career that involves saying sincere things to large audiences? (Of course.)
Watch this talk if you want, but keep in mind that it’s a first go. And I’ll do at least a dozen things differently next time. And my voice definitely doesn’t sound like that.
Or—alternatively!—listen to these great podcasts that have made my difficult week just a little bit easier. They feature sincere, thoughtful people who demand a lot of love and relationships are willing to talk honestly about it.
Or! Watch this talk, my favorite from the TEDxChapmanU 2015 selection:
Okay. Here’s me: