So I gave this speech a couple of weeks ago. You may have read it, you may not have. If not, you can find it over on the “Speaking” page of this site. It’s a speech I delivered at the World Domination Summit (WDS) in Portland, OR, about what my life has been like since leaving the public radio show Marketplace in fall of 2012. This post is what my life has been like in the 2-1/2 weeks since the speech.
First of all, let me just say that I had no idea — NO IDEA — that this speech would resonate with so many people. I wrote it over a span of two days, less than a week before delivering it (even though I had about six months to write it – I’m the world’s worst procrastinator). In fact, my biggest fear was that it would come off sounding self-important. After all, it was just my story. 35 minutes or so about… me. Who wants to listen to THAT? But I figured I had nothing to lose, so I wrote from the dark depths of my gut — maybe even my soul. I cried a few times as I wrote it. You can’t write the sentence “I don’t feel very remarkable anymore” without swallowing really hard and wondering if you’re crazy for admitting it to an audience of 3,000 total strangers. But I said it anyway. And lots of other really personal stuff. And I guess it didn’t come off as self-important, because all I got back from that audience was love and support. And that is nothing if not remarkable.
From that moment on — Sunday, July 7, 2013, around noon Pacific time — I’m tempted to say my life has been candy and unicorns. In truth, though, it’s been the same roller-coaster that I described in the speech, veering from “I AM AWESOME I AM TALENTED PEOPLE LOVE ME!!” to “OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE I STILL WILL NEVER WORK AGAIN!!” Only it’s happened on an even faster scale… from one day to another. Mostly because I can’t seem to see myself and my life the way others do… and anyone watching from the outside would say I’m nuts to think its been anything but a — bathtub full of kittens.
The good parts: all kinds of wonderful new friends both in real life and on social media; nearly 10,000 views of my speech after it was republished on the new literary website Medium; plaudits from fellow journalists; oh… and a book deal. See — I buried the lead. Yes, a top editor from Random House was in the audience at WDS and less than two weeks later I had a book deal. Those are the good parts. And they are slammin’ good parts. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.
But the days in between those good parts have been filled with the same questions that filled the un-busy days since I left my job. The days I didn’t have a literary website wanting to republish my speech. The days I remembered I don’t have a full-time job anymore. Oh — and the day less than 48 hours after getting a book deal where I started to tell myself that there’s no way I’ll be able to top the speech, that I will disappoint friends new and old because the book won’t be as good as the speech, that some day soon someone will realize there’s been a mistake, and that I’ve already peaked. I couldn’t even give myself 48 hours of being remarkable.
But I guess that’s who I am and hopefully I’ll keep learning from that kind of mistake — because it is a mistake to not revel in the good.
I talked about all this today with my friend J.D. Roth, who wrote about our conversation here, and summed it up really well: “We’re afraid of failing to live up to the expectations of others, but we’re also afraid of failing to live up to our own expectations. That’s quite a trap.” Indeed. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on that. Read his piece — it’s excellent. We both wonder what it would be like to just go and work at Starbucks for a while. Hmm.
So there it is — WDS plus two weeks. Remarkable? Yes. Life-changing? Yes. Am I grateful? Undeniably. Am I fortunate? More than. But believe me… I’m still working on an answer to the question: What the Hell Are You Doing?!
(How’s that for my first-ever blog post? Maybe I should just delete it and start over…)
ADDENDUM July 26, 2013 — This morning Arianna Huffington tweeted and posted the speech on her Facebook page. I’ll put today in the win column.