31 Jan 2014, by

TEDx Redux

TEDX Me Onstage

It’s been only a matter of weeks since I was lucky enough to see a big juicy dream of mine come true. And unlike much fleeting felicity in life, I have been able to savor the experience for the intervening weeks. (I’m still on a bit of a high, truth be told…)

One thing, though, I felt compelled to do: write down my moment by moment emotions on the day itself…to help me preserve the “memory mosaic”, with all its rich colors and hues.

So I thought, why not share it with you?

On the day of TEDxHomeBushRdWomen event, I was scheduled to speak last. That meant I sat on pins and needles for hours and clearly couldn’t allow myself to get carried away by all the inspiration that day – for fear I’d forget my own words! (More than a little difficult with all the wit and wisdom being shared onstage.)

Over the past few months we’d met and mingled, marvelled at each other’s expertise and inspiring stories…and then, finally relaxed into a comfortable rapport. We’d collaborated on crafting our messages and listened with satisfaction as various versions of each person’s presentation evolved. But on the day itself, there were still plenty of surprises: new words, new twists and fresh energy – combined with audience feedback – it all left me transfixed. So much for trying to stay un-carried away!

And it wasn’t just the speakers.

As I found myself gazing at the block letters, “TEDx”, directly  in front of me, something became instantly clear. The letters didn’t just spell out the name of the event, they articulated a dream I hardly dared to admit to myself. A dream I was about to see come true. Those four red letters symbolized so much, they made me as emotional as the day I got married! To my surprise (and certainly beyond my control) came tears, joy, excitement – one emotion welling up right after the other. I didn’t know if would burst out crying or in dissolve in nervous laughter! But I held it together. And, also just as the day of my wedding, I remembered to savor what was happening. I took a “heart picture”, as my grandmother used to call it, to help me remember the moment forever.

Finally, after four hours, it was my turn to step onto the stage.

Not just onto the stage, but onto the little round red TED Talk rug. The place where it would all come together or all fall apart.

It came together. That little spot of carpet became my source of strength…where I finally found my voice. The voice that’s tried to be heard since I was a young girl and wrote fanciful fairy stories; then as a philosophy student, striving to extract new meaning out of ancient texts; and later in life, edited to fit the clipped script of a new anchor. After more than four decades of hopeful expression, my voice finally emerged on my TEDx talk day, once again reinvented – but finally sounding real.

Then, in what seemed like just moments, it was over.


TEDxHomeBushRdWomen Post-TEDx Talk Pose

TEDxHomeBushRdWomen Post-TEDx Talk Pose


Posing for pictures with everyone afterward, I realised I had a “wedding headache”. You know the kind that spreads across the back of your head – that comes from wide smiles that last longer than usual? The TEDxHomeBushRdWomen crew was in celebration mode, as we moved onto the “reception” (a dinner at a local pub). There, we had a chance to exhale and deconstruct the day, weeks and months of meticulous planning and practicing and promoting required to pull this all together.

A coup, a triumph: the first TEDx Women event in New Zealand. Ever.

As always, just a few of us had the chance to shine in the spotlight that day onstage, while the many who made the dream real remained in the shadows, unsung but much appreciated. That night, we could properly acknowledge them. We thanked them, hugged them and toasted their talents: from the firecracker organizer (a dream-maker extraordinaire) to the cadre of committed volunteers, astute advisers, sponsors (better described as “believers”), down to the goodie bag fillers – whose job was for more important than they may even have realized.

Chocolate and coffee? Guaranteed to make any event better.

When the night finally ended and the party disbanded, once again I was surprised. I felt a little bereft. For a few brief months we’d created a “tribe” – women woven together by a common purpose, focus and strength. Not just sharing our beliefs but taking a shared risk: Would all this hard work make an impact? Would TEDXHomeBushRdWomen be successful?

It was.

And really, it wasn’t over. To counter the letdown that comes at the end of a wedding day, there is something called “the honeymoon”. Ours is seeing our “Ideas Worth Spreading” start to wend their way around the world online. That said, we aren’t content just to sit back and watch. We know this “basking in the afterglow” won’t sustain us for long. No, we’re already looking forward to our anniversary.

Next year?

All of us involved with TEDxHomeBushRdWomen hope we’ve earned the chance to put Wellington, New Zealand on the map once again. It will require even more commitment, planning and dreaming.

Believe me, it all began even before our very own TED Talk stage went dark…

Part of that process? Finding out exactly what impact we might have had. Watch – and let us know if and how any our words may have impacted your lives.

Unlike newlyweds, we aren’t all absorbed with ourselves. We want to see your dreams come true. And if they do, we’d love to hear about it…

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How much further away from the anchor desk can you get?

A year ago this month, I signed off the air for the final time as a nightly newscaster. It was just one year ago, but it feels like a decade has passed since then. Some warned my transition may be challenging: that I may get bored or feel unproductive, maybe even less “valuable” after 20 years of earning a living. Truth is, I haven’t looked back. Not once. That is not an indictment of where I worked, my career field, or life as a working mother. It is just me. It was just time.

I remember the excitement I felt when I first started in the news business. My first job was hard won. When sending my audition tapes and resumes got me nowhere, I hit the road and delivered them in person. It’s harder to say “no” to someone who insists on looking you in the eye instead of simply sending in an application. One News Director, who liked my attitude, tried to find a place for me among his network of contacts. But no one had openings, so he decided instead to take a chance, and created a position in order to hire me.

I didn’t head straight to the anchor seat. I was expected to work my way up. And I did, gladly. It was all behind the scenes, and included loading tapes for a live show. (BTW, that’s a job now handled by a robot.) Even though my days started at 4am, I couldn’t wait to punch in. I worked with such enthusiasm and took on so much extra responsibility, within a year I was reporting on air and producing half-hour political programs.

Over the following years, I poured my heart into my work, even when my heart was being pulled in different directions. When my children were young, they had to share me with my newsroom. It was painful, but necessary. Financially, we were a “two income required” household. But there were also ideas I had to express, energy I had to give, things I had to prove, and so much left to discover about my world. I had a masters degree I wanted to use. I wasn’t willing to walk away until I knew I’d achieved what I needed, deep down. Fulfillment can’t always be easily explained. But it can be recognized. One day, I realized I had come to the end of a road.

There’s a phrase in economics that applies to so many other aspects of life: diminishing returns. When you pass a tipping point, and the effort you put in outweighs the pay off, it’s time to reconsider. When I realized that’s the situation I was in, it was time to make a change.

There were bigger picture things that influenced me, no doubt. The news industry did change its focus, as the recession dug in and the business became more about the bottom-line. On the flip side, my income wasn’t needed at home quite as much as it had in the beginning of my marriage. Physically, the schedule really started taking a toll. Twenty years of sleep deprivation starts to sink in when you hit your 40s. And, as most parents will confirm, my children just wouldn’t stop growing! I didn’t want to miss any more of their lives.

When I realized where I stood, I wrote myself a “reinvention wish.” You might call it a creative twist on the “dream board” concept. I stumbled across my document, saved in my “personal” computer file, just the other day. I’d forgotten it even existed! It was stunning to read and realize, my wish has come true.

Here are some highlights:

“I want to work from home, so I can spend more time with my kids, nurture them and myself more than I do now: cook with natural ingredients, sleep when I need to and exercise more – be in nature! I want to write books, create seminars, teach public speaking and blog. I want to travel…to connect with friends and make new ones. I want to live a life with more variety. I want to prove that you can reinvent yourself and be successful. I want to teach my children that you can create your own reality…I know that I will continue to give and serve others, but I want to honor who I am…I want the day to look like a blank canvas when I wake up so I can make it up as I go along. I want to tell my story…I want to wear comfortable clothing. I want to play…I want to find my creativity again…I want to find my bliss, finally.”

When I wrote that, New Zealand was just a distant country I wanted to visit someday! But it seems my life will always be peppered with unexpected plot twists and international moves. My husband’s job offer in this mystical land, far, far away really did feel like a fairy tale in the making. I’ve found my bliss. Here, my dream came true.

Admittedly, my days don’t always stretch out before me luxuriously. I’m up early getting school lunches ready and work hard to put homemade meals on the table at night. I do get tired of cleaning the kitchen endlessly. But sometimes, I do just sit down and read after my boys head out the door. The time I spend writing makes me deeply happy. No book yet, but I’ve started playing with a screenplay script and, as you know, I’ve been busy blogging!

For now, my work outside the home is mainly volunteer. I’m learning how to “translate” my broadcast skills by acting as a communications coordinator for different community organizations and schools. I’ll also be on hand as a barbecue chef at a “sausage sizzle” for my older son’s school next week, and have served hundreds of coffees and teas at my younger son’s school. It feels good to give back a bit, and it makes me feel connected. Professionally, I have kept a toe in, so to speak. Did you know you can media coach over Skype? I’ve also started putting together a seminar with a kindred spirit who relocated here just like me. We hope to inspire other women like us, who want to make changes in their lives and make the most of their talents and opportunities.

Maybe most importantly, my time in nature has been nothing short of healing. I joke that I made up for 20 years behind the desk in just one year here, hiking! While I train for my 100k walk to raise funds for OXFAM, I also get to explore and enjoy the rugged beauty of New Zealand that surrounds me. It’s no exaggeration to say that every day I am grateful. I often mumble a little prayer out loud while I’m walking, just to say thank you. I believe the “reinvention wish” I wrote, with blind hope and faith years ago, is a prayer that was answered. Try it and see what happens for you…

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