Ask Me About My Tiara
TEDxColoradoSprings: Just Around the Corner
There wasn’t time before I began speaking to take in the moment, to really look out into the crowd of faces, mostly hidden in darkness, to embrace the beauty of this stop in my journey, to find her. For approximately 17 minutes, I shared with loved ones and strangers a piece of myself, a baring of my soul and passion, and then…then I took my moment. As the audience applauded, I saw her — 13-year-old me in the audience, the one person I decided to focus my message toward.
“I see you, little Angie. The next several years will be even harder than the previous ones, but you are strength and courage and beauty, and I see you in the darkness, little one. You are loved. And you are free.”
Standing on a stage and receiving applause while the weight of a heavy tiara and message weighed me down was surreal and beautiful and transformational. I wore a purple dress of butterflies, a symbol of domestic violence awareness (color) and growth (butterfly). Like the butterfly is still who she was when she arrived on earth, I am still who I was when I arrived, only now I can fly. I walked in uncomfortable shoes to deliver a message on getting uncomfortable with each other. A tiara sat upon my head, my symbol of reclamation of self.
After months and months of preparation, it was over. I held my hand over my mouth as I exited the stage to hold words and emotions inside until my mic was turned off, and then I felt my body shake, a quiver running through, adrenaline racing from head to toe. The few days before, I was an emotional mess, choking up at random moments, completely unaware. The significance of this event was more than I could describe.
It was just that. An idea that I would leave it all on the stage. I would give what I have, knowing it would be out of my hands as soon as it was over. I did the work, and I delivered the talk, and then it was just done.
I made a deal with myself as I released my memoir leading up to this day that I would let go. No, not that I wouldn’t share my story anymore, or that I thought I could magically be completely healed, but rather that I would release the idea of telling a perfect story (it wasn’t perfect when it happened) of what was and step much more fully into what is — who I am now, what it looks like on this side of abuse, of healing, of growth, of what the journey looks like. That it is often messy and imperfect.
I would forgive myself for all the times I’ve beat myself up for the sabotage of dreams and jobs and relationships, for quitting school, for running from people, for not standing up for myself, for being afraid, for being a victim. I would speak from a place of love for others and self, and I would look fully into my own darkness and leave no pieces of me in the shadows.
I wasn’t on this part of my journey alone. And looking back, I was never truly alone. On this day, I had family and friends in the audience, and family and friends who couldn’t be there trying to watch from home. A roomful of strangers leaned in to listen, and the other nine speakers and all the volunteers were cheering me on. In life, we really are surrounded more by people who want us to succeed than otherwise. History has proven that not everyone is kind and loving, but I truly still believe most are. We are doing life together, and we need each other.
After our curtain call, I stood on the stage with all the other amazing speakers, and as we took a bow, I was overwhelmed by the journey we’d all been on together. As we thanked our audience, I could feel the release and relief we all felt. It was done. We brought our messages and ideas. We showed up and gave of our hearts and minds. And now we were done, and hopeful, and free from the fear that was, stepping now into elation and applause. We didn’t have to be right — we just needed to start a conversation.
But as the event truly ended and attendees found their favorite speakers, my one found me. I say that I always hope to reach at least one – just one person who needs to know he or she is not alone – and she came right onto the stage and showed up. She was my one, a gift of pain and tears, but also, hopefully that first step for her to say, “I’m ready to don my own tiara and begin to heal.”
We’re all on a journey of some sort. We all have something we are passionate about.
I retreated to my bed early that night, just to be alone with myself, to think about my passions, my journey. I found that my thoughts weren’t on whether or not I messed up but rather on this beautiful life I have. I once thought I’d die before I ever hit 30. I once thought happiness was for other people. I once thought I just had to survive. But now I live. My life is truly beautiful, full of love from family and friends and strangers alike. Standing on that stage was not the finale of a big dream but rather another stop on the way. It too is part of my healing. I literally stepped into the spotlight when for so many years I was told to sit down and shut up. I stepped on stage to speak for those who cannot. I drew attention to myself to plead for attention for those who are living in pain and darkness. And I released the idea of perfection for the hope of connection.
I don’t know what’s next, but I am more prepared today than I have ever been to take on the challenge, to step up again and again, and to keep fighting the fight. I will not sit down and shut up. I will speak from stages to many, or in a quiet room with one. We are all in this together, and I am grateful.
Passion over perfection. Love over discomfort. Thriving over just surviving.
Special Thanks to –
- My family, always
- My coach, the amazing Jenny Schell, 2016 TEDxColoradoSprings
- My friends, whether you were there or not
- Debbie and Shelly, who actually found a way to be there regardless of cost
- Dallas Shepard of Harmonized Brain Centers and fellow Toastmaster, who also made it possible for my daughter to attend
- Joselyn, fellow Toastmaster and big sunshine cheerleader in my life
- Rachel Leonhart (and her daughter), a new friendship (Colorado Springs Addictions Coalition)
- Dawn Smyth of Fuse Salon, who made sure my hair was ready (and always keeps me hair-ready)
- Every single person who volunteered at the event
- My fellow 9 speakers, who are AMAZING!
- The TEDxColoradoSprings curation team – thank you for choosing me!
2017 Speakers (in order of appearance on stage)
- Lora Freeman
- Norberto Vargas Orellana
- Cassy Huidobro
- Andrew Dwyer
- Nicole Nageli
- Dennis S. Alexander
- Mark Tegtmeier
- Angela Giles Klocke
- Gracie Packard
- Rich Hopkins