by: Sundi McLaughlin
I was lucky enough to be one of the speakers at the TEDXSandhillsCommunityCollege event (TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas through talks under 18 minutes) at the Sunrise Theater in April and it was terrifyingly awesome. The day was filled with an overwhelming sense of camaraderie. I have never in my life been given such love, goodwill and generosity from so many people. All thanks to the Sandhills Community College. The College acquired rights to put on the event through TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) and they did an amazing job of rolling out the red carpet for the 100 people lucky enough to have secured a ticket (rumor is the event sold out in 3 minutes…)! The end result was so much more than I ever imagined…
Two months prior to the event the TEDxSandhillsCommunityCollege committee invited all of the speakers to a meeting where they laid out the ground rules provided by TED as well as their own timeline, details and hopes for the April 1st event. It was immediately evident that these lovely folks had been working hard and planning every possible detail. The theme: ReconstucTED. I remember coming home and telling my husband the real goal is to rise to the occasion and honor their hard work by doing my level best and make them proud.
I also remember thinking, “Ok, I need to give the speech of my life!” …no pressure. Once the reality of: This will be online forever— sunk in the real question became, “What is the one true message you would like to say to the world?” Which of course, caused my heart to race. So I got to work and quickly discovered a lot of what I wanted to say needed to be condensed to meet the time requirement. So I kept chiseling away until I finally ended up with a draft I thought was workable and then started memorizing and memorizing… and memorizing. I practiced in my guest bedroom until all of the words lost meaning. I mentioned my time as a little girl dreaming of being best friends with Cher and Dolly Parton. I spoke about owning a shell stand in Key West, where my appreciation for the mysteries of the ocean came alive. I reflected back on my time in Law Enforcement where of course the most important thing in my life happened… no it wasn’t how to make booze AKA Buck; out of bread, sugar and juice while patiently waiting for fermentation under your prison bunk, although several nice inmates did instruct me about all of that… No nothing that educational. Only the minor detail of meeting the love of my life. He a training officer, I a young naive cadet… love in the jail… it was magical…
The most important thing I wanted to get across was how much my voice of pessimism inhibited much of what I wanted in my young life and how fighting that inner pessimism is the only thing that has kept me from becoming a homeless mime or tapioca wrestler…I felt pretty good about my draft as I headed in to my first rehearsal, anxious but good. The committee, obviously wanted a chance to hear what we all had been working on and I was apprehensive to hear what they thought. I mean saying something out loud to your dog in a tiny room is one thing (Dodge is an average listener at best), but a room of 6 people is a little more intimidating. The rehearsal went okay. I forgot some things, my slides needed tweaking but the committee was as gracious as always and sent me on my way to fix what needed fixing; and you guessed it more memorization.
The morning of the event I was either breathing into a paper bag and trying not to hyperventilate and die or attempting to remain calm while silently rehearsing my speech in my head ad- nauseam. I was feeling pretty iffy, but within just a few minutes I was approached by a beautiful 20-something volunteer who exclaimed, “ Oh my gosh, you look like Stevie Nicks!!” I mean how awesome is that to hear on a day when you have pretty much second guessed every decision you’ve ever made including your ensemble!
I told her that her compliment was pretty much the best thing I had ever heard; her kind words worked a little magic. It lifted the butterflies just enough for me to softly sing,
“Stand back, Stand back.
In the middle of my room
I did not hear from you
It’s all right, It’s all right
To be standing in a line…”
you get the picture… That little bit of positive energy allowed me to look around and really take in the scene; the Sunrise block of Broad St. was buzzing with excitement. Groups of people were smiling and laughing while others were all business and went straight for their seats. My friends Lauren and Paul must’ve been the first people through the doors because they were in the front row which made things so much nicer when I was up on stage.
My parents flew up from Florida to see my talk, always supportive despite the fact my Dad had never heard of a TED Talk before. My Ride or Die squad Lindsay, Jess, Cathleen and Courtney lent a calm supportive energy that held my hysteria at bay. Maybe the best and most magical thing happened after the event; my Dad and my Man came home so inspired they cleaned out the garage! A TEDx Miracle!
The speech went well, the audience generous with their applause and laughter. An afternoon I will never forget. I was given a rare opportunity. A chance to show my heart to my community, a community which has welcomed me in a way I never thought possible. I hope I did the Sandhills Community College proud because they sure shined bright. Their hard work sent love far and wide into our community right here under the pines…