It’s easy to discount where you come from. But have you ever stopped to think about all the ways you’re stronger because of it?
Where I grew up, nobody was a “full time” artist. It didn’t exist.
I did community theatre, but our budgets were tiny. Went to open mics at artsy cafes that all eventually closed down. It was heartbreaking. The message was clear: the arts aren’treally important here.
So I left Laredo at seventeen, and I made a promise to myself to never turn back.
As I navigated my music career, I learned to turn to mentors for guidance. I used their stories to inspire me to do what I thought wasn’t possible.
That’s how I first heard about TED.
I was in the studio recording my first album, and Derek Sivers sent me Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk on Creative Genius. I watched it, in awe - and ended up writing one of my most personal songs.
After that, I was hooked.
I started watching TED Talks to pull me out of depressed days, inspire me while folding laundry, and get me going before hitting a run. I drew so much strength from my hero’s stories - Amanda Palmer’s talk on The Power of Asking reminded me of the endless generosity I’d found on the road. Brene Brown’s talks on Vulnerability and Shame inspired me to get sober, get honest and get real with my demons.
I was a bonafide TEDhead.
I remember thinking - if only I’d heard this stuff five, SHIT - ten years ago. I might have spared myself a lot of teenage angst. In all my years as a student in Laredo the only inspirational speaker we got was an army recruiter. I wanted to change that.
I contacted an old teacher from my high school and asked if I could speak to his class while I was in town.
Then I told his students the story of how I dropped out of college and started living my dream. Visiting his classes ignited a fire in me. So much, that I did it each time I came to Laredo to play.
After every speech, a few students would pull me aside so frustrated they were in tears - I want to be a singer but my parents think it’s not a real job, I love cooking but everyone says I should go to law school.
I just thought, whoa.
I saw myself in each one of them. Ten years ago, I was them.
When I heard Laredo would be hosting their first TEDxYouth conference, it seemed all too perfect. I applied immediately. I wasn’t totally sure what I’d be speaking about - but I had a good hunch....
When I got news that I was accepted, I kind of freaked out. People come together at TED to give the best talk of their life: share the most innovative, cutting edge new ideas. All in the hopes of inspiring others. To be frank, I was nervous as hell. That’s a lot of pressure.
Now I wanted to use my voice to inspire others.
I’d been to Laredo a million times to put on big shows. That was all well and good, but this was my chance to share the story of how it all happened. Explain how I did it - and why I believed everyone in that room could, too. I wanted to share the same principle that got me to TED in the first place - that fear is a compass. Do what scares you.
I enlisted so much help - reaching out to every friend I could think of to refine my talk. Three times a day I went through my speech, recording it and posting it on privately on Youtube for critiques. We were on the road - so that meant running my talk in parking lots, laundromats, and airplane bathrooms.
The morning I boarded my flight to Laredo, I got news that I was the closing speaker. I was beyond freaking humbled and excited. I wanted to send everyone home on an inspired high.
This was my chance to tell them all the things nobody ever told me.
Giving my first TED Talk was something I’d dreamt of since first watching Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk on Creativity. It meant so much to finally realize that dream in the city that molded me into the big dreamer I am today.
That little community theatre and artsy cafe open mic nurtured a dream in me.
How has where you come from shaped who you are today?
Watch my TEDxYouth Laredo Talk HERE.