The inspiration came to me when I saw an advertisement for a quickly approaching TEDx talk. I looked at the line-up for speakers – extremely impressive, all of them. Each of them really making something of themselves and putting a huge footprint in the wave of social history. All of them started something, all of them are young, and all of them are “inspiring.” So then I thought, how funny would it be if I was there, what would I say to an audience like that, being surrounded by other speakers like that?
This is what came out of that:
I’m here to represent the normal people. The ones who barely have time to crank out their next pset, let alone go out and invest time and energy in a start-up. The ones for whom it’s more common to stay up at 3 in the morning trying to start the paper due the next day, rather than doing so to have a phone conference with a business associate across the world. The ones who have never been considered incredible on a universal level, though perhaps from time to time on relative terms.The ones who never get to stand on a podium like this because they’re not “special” enough. Or at least don’t consider themselves to be.
Now I’m not trying to under-glorify anyone’s success. I’m not up here to “hate”. I love hearing their stories – the stories of those who traverse the road less traveled carrying only inspiration and forcing themselves forward with stubborn persistance.It’s amazing that the bounds of what society calls normal can be challenged everyday, and with increasing regularity to the point where starting a business in college almost seems normal.
What I do want to do with my time before you is to speak for the young man at the community college down the road who’s dream to become a musician has finally come true after 5 years of working odd jobs after barely graduating high school. I want to encourage the student who feels as though she made it into an ivy league by only what some would call a miracle, and now is struggling to keep up, wondering if it was a “miracle” or some kind of twisted design of torture. I want to speak to the young man who is taking his life by the bootstraps and made it to college – the first in his family; those who are seen to be successful only in their family’s eyes. I also want to make known the ones who try so hard, and yet can never seem to gain that approval in their father’s eyes, or even in their own. Even the young man who works as a subway operator who’s dream is to write a novel about how he got through life – how he has come so far from where he began.
I want to talk about them. You know, regular people, and students – all of them.
I want to do so because that is what TED talks are for – to invite people to talk about interesting topics in order to initiate thought and conversation. These then inspire people, young and old, go to out and pursue something that will inevitably work towards either their good or the good of all. If only to improve the general intellect of the world and cure sources if ignorance, TED talks does a very good job. The speakers are all fantastic – I’m sure they all go through rigorous inspection to make sure that they have something of weight to share, that they are people of reputation so that others will care.
But I’d like to argue that inspiration does not, in fact, only come from above. Bring up the young man who now is at one of the most fantastic schools in the country after living a childhood full of bullying and degradation. Or the young international student who knows she will never go home for the next four years, will never get to be hugged from her mother until she graduates, but she considers that worth it because of what she will gain from this new world. Or the young man who is completely cut off from all family ties, both emotional and financial, and works 4 jobs and takes as many classes as he can because he is running towards the most of his potential, despite what others may say about his past or his mental well being. Even they, the majority, who are simply following the path of life with no “real” trials or hardships. They are inspiration.
Just to be clear, I’m not bringing up these phantom stories, the ghosts of lives still continuing, to simply pin them up as static representations of the human condition. If TED talks are meant to inspire, then I wish to direct your attention away from the stage and to the people around you to gain inspiration from them. Every life has a story, and every story has a lesson, and every lesson has the potential to be learned, and to inspire another. I’m not doing it because “they don’t have the voice to do it themselves.” They do, and they are telling their stories everyday, it’s just a question of whether anyone else has the ears to listen.
After all, who am I to be the one to bear the weight of their stories? I’m just a regular person myself. But I just figured, heck, somebody’s gotta do it.