What I'm Meant to Do
Recently I talked FLOW at Rutgers. The reality of it all didn't hit until we were driving into the student center and I saw actual students sitting in the brightly lit lounge. I'd been invited, ages ago, by someone on twitter, was snowed out the first go round, and it had now been months since we first talked, or rather tweeted, about me coming out there. This was my last FLOW gig after a couple of crazy weeks: The View, The Times, The Strategy Room, the Susun Weed interview (which could air anytime through next January), and I felt like I didn't have much left. I was also sure no one would show up, which was sort of a relief. Talking to two or three people would have been fine.
As we wandered through the crowded student center searching for meeting room B, I thought, perhaps, the audience might expand to four or five. Upstairs we found a full scale food spread, two people setting up books to sell, a projector and screen and a room chock full of chairs. And then people started wandering in. Two more. Then another three. One here, another smiled shyly as she walked passed me. While I grappled with my laptop and the AV equipment -- a quick shout out to Eugene who lent me his computer when we discovered there was no way to hook up a Mac -- having no clue how to get my PowerPoint presentation going, more people filed in. Finally, at 8:20 or so, tech experts in black polo shirts grappling with wires and plugs, I started talking. To a packed room. There had to be 50 kids, boys sprinkled in, staring at me.
I wasn't nervous. My heart wasn't pounding. I just talked. And talked, working my way through the show I'd created. I'd written a two page outline to go with it, but didn't look at it once. I just kept talking, heading out on tangents when they felt right, the topics effortlessly flowing into each other. I hadn't practiced beforehand and was amazed, each time I'd hit the "next" button to find the order was just what it should have been. It made sense. I truly know my stuff.
My voice went 20 minutes in. As it cracked I panicked, thinking I'd go off on a coughing jag, needing to leave the room until it subsided, wondering how I'd be able to squeeze past the projector to flee into the hall and maintain any sense of dignity. For some reason that's a major fear of mine. I'm never without a pack of cough drops in case that happens. Fortunately, I'd stuck one in my pocket and within a minute or so, between the soothing drip down the back of my throat and the water I was chugging, I was okay.
And I kept talking.
Everyone was just staring at me. I realized afterwards they were all engaged. No one was looking down, texting, checking messages. They were just sitting rock still, watching me. Listening hard, sometimes taking notes.
I wrapped it up and asked if there were any questions.
Silence. Polite applause.
And then someone said it was all so interesting, she just wished I'd talk some more. Other people nodded in agreement. And so I did. This time though, people laughed as I shared stories, raised hands to contribute, to ask, to participate. When I finished this time, raffling off 5 copies of FLOW, people stayed to have books signed and to talk. More. I spent another hour chatting, listening, discussing. It was nothing short of pure delight, watching these kids see things in a new way, literally having light bulb moments as the night went on.
I realized, as we drove home and I scarfed down the delicious mozzarella/pesto sandwiches and yellow peppers they sent me home with, that this is what I truly love to do. I was completely present. I was myself but more than that. I had information to share, a story to tell, thoughts to weave, putting pieces together in a way people hadn't seen before.
I think this is what I'm meant to do.
I know this is what I'm meant to do.
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