The last keynote is always the hardest to attend. Bags need to be packed, last moments with friends need to be savored, carbs need to be ingested to prep for the last party, and frankly, all too often you’re just conferenced out by the time the mic is adjusted and the last speaker clears her voice.
Yesterday, for the first time in my conference history, I didn’t blow off the last keynote. Instead I picked my seat carefully a full 30 minutes before it was due to start.
Me Ra Koh was speaking and I knew it was going to be special.
I’ve been a fan of hers since I attended her photography class at BlogHer’08 and, despite attending her session just on Friday, I couldn’t wait to hear her speak again. Told you I was a fan.
I was so not disappointed.
I strive for authenticity and vulnerability when I write. I want to let you in and share things that are not only meaningful, but also heartfelt and personal. I let my guard fully down when I sit at the computer and I invite you into my heart and head, trusting that you’ll be gentle with what you find there.
I only ever do that from the safety of my couch, with my computer securely between me and the world.
Me Ra Koh did it in front of hundreds of attendees, each hanging on her every word, emotion etched into our expectant faces. The only thing she had to cling to and hide behind was a relatively small microphone.
It didn’t stop her.
She shared her intensely personal story – the path that led her to photography – pausing for a moment to explain the words “date rape” to the youngest audience members, flew us to Thailand and made us watch as she and her daughter battled dengue fever, awed us with tales of monkeys cheering her 10 year old through the worst of the pain, and, finally, inspired us with the story of that same 10-year-old’s unwillingness to let the experience cow her.
It was, in a word, amazing.
I cried. I laughed. I wooop-woooped like a monkey, and I feverishly took notes between wiping tears from my eyes.
She spoke to everyone in that room and everyone was touched in different ways.
Some took to heart her “If you know that fear and doubt would always be with you, what would you stop putting off now?” message.
I heard her ask me how I could let my creative voice sing out more often and be silenced less frequently.
I also took away a strong desire to travel more with my family instead of always leaving them at home to wait for me. Maybe we’ll wait on Thailand thought. That dengue stuff sounds pretty horrendous.
Here’s the full keynote for you to enjoy. The sound is messed up at first, but improves as it goes along. Don’t forget your tissues.