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TEDxEast - Sarah Kay - How many lives can you live?

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    (Singing) I see the moon.
    The moon sees me.
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    The moon sees somebody that I don't see.
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    God bless the moon, and god bless me,
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    and God bless that somebody
    that I don't see.
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    If I get to heaven, before you do,
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    I'll make a hole and pull you through.
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    And I'll write your name, on every star,
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    and that way the world,
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    won't seem so far.
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    The astronaut will not be at work today.
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    He has called in sick.
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    He has turned off his cell phone,
    his laptop, his pager, his alarm clock.
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    There is a fat yellow cat
    asleep on his couch,
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    rain drops against the window,
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    and not even the hint
    of coffee in the kitchen air.
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    Everybody is in a tizzy.
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    The engineers on the 15th floor have
    stopped working on their particle machine.
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    The anti gravity room is leaking
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    and even the freckled kid with glasses,
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    whose only job is to take
    out the trash, is nervous,
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    fumbles the bag, spills
    a banana peel and a paper cup.
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    Nobody notices.
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    They are too busy recalculating
    what this all mean for lost time.
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    How many galaxies
    are we losing per second.
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    How long before next rocket
    can be launched, somewhere.
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    An electron flies off its energy cloud.
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    A black hole has erupted.
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    A mother finishes setting
    the table for dinner.
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    A Law & Order marathon is starting.
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    The astronaut is asleep.
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    He has forgotten to turn off his watch,
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    which ticks, like a metal
    pulse against his wrist.
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    He does not hear it.
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    He dreams of coral reefs and plankton.
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    His fingers find
    the pillowcase's sailing masts.
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    He turns on his side.
    Opens his eyes at once.
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    He thinks that scuba divers must have
    the most wonderful job in the world.
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    So much water to glide through!
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    (Applause)
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    Thank you.
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    When I was little, I could
    not understand the concept
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    that you could only live one life.
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    I don't mean this metaphorically.
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    I mean, I literally thought
    that I was going to get to do
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    everything that there was to do
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    and be everything there was to be.
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    It was only a matter of time.
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    Ad there was no limitation
    based on age, or gender,
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    or race or even appropriate time period.
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    I was sure that I was going
    to actually experience
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    what it felt like to be a leader
    of the civil right movement,
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    or a ten-year old boy living
    on a farm during the dust bowl,
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    or an emperor of the Tang
    dynasty in China.
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    My mom says that when people asked me what
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    I wanted to be when I grew up, my typical
    response was princess-ballerina-astronaut.
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    And what she doesn't understand
    is that I wasn't trying to invent
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    some combined
    super profession.
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    I was listing things I thought
    I was gonna get to be:
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    a princess, and a ballerina,
    and an astronaut.
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    and I'm pretty sure the list
    probably went on from there.
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    I usually just got cut off.
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    It was never a question
    of if I was going to do something
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    so much of a question of when.
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    And I was sure that if I was going
    to do everything,
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    that it probably meant I had
    to move pretty quickly,
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    because there was a lot
    of stuff I needed to do.
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    So my life was constantly
    in a state of rushing.
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    I was always scared
    that I was falling behind.
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    And since I grew up in New York
    City, as far as I could tell,
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    rushing was pretty normal.
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    But, as I grew up, I had
    this sinking realization,
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    that I wasn't gonna get to live
    any more than one life
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    I only knew what it felt
    like to be a teenage girl
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    in New York City,
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    not a teenage boy in New Zealand,
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    not a prom queen in Kansas.
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    I only got to see through my lens
    and it was around this time
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    that I became obsessed with stories,
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    because it was through stories
    that I was able to see
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    through someone else's lens,
    however briefly or imperfectly.
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    And I started craving hearing
    other people's experiences
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    because I was so jealous
    that there were entire lives
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    that I was never going to get
    to live, and I wanted to hear
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    about everything that I was missing.
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    And by transitive property, I realized
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    that some people were never going
    to get to experience what it felt like
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    to be a teenage girl in New York city.
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    Which meant that they weren’t
    going to know
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    what the subway ride
    after your first kiss feels like,
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    or how quiet it gets when its snows,
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    and I wanted them to know,
    I wanted to tell them
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    and this became the focus of my obsession.
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    I busied myself telling stories
    and sharing stories and collecting them.
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    And it's not until recently
    that I realized
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    that I can't always rush poetry.
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    In April for National Poetry Month
    there's this challenge that,
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    many poets in the poetry
    community participate in,
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    and its called the 30/30 Challenge.
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    The idea is you write
    a new poem
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    every single day
    for the entire month of April.
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    And last year I tried it for the first
    time, and I was thrilled
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    by the efficiency at which I was able
    to produce poetry.
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    But at the end of the month I looked
    back at these 30 poems I had written,
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    and discovered that they were
    all trying to tell the same story,
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    it had just taken me 30 tries to figure
    out the way that it wanted to be told.
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    And I realized that this is probably true
    of other stories on an even larger scale.
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    I have stories that I have
    tried to tell for years,
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    rewriting and rewriting and constantly
    searching for the right words.
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    There's a French poet, an essayist
    by the name of Paul Valery
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    who said a poem is never
    finished, it is only abandoned.
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    And this terrifies me
    because it implies that
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    I could keep reediting and rewriting
    forever and its up to me to decide
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    when a poem is finished and when
    I can walk away from it.
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    And this goes directly against my very
    obsessive nature to try
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    to find the right answer, and the perfect
    words, and the right form.
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    And I use poetry in my life,
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    as a way to help me navigate
    and work through things.
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    But just because I end the poem,
    doesn't mean that I've solved
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    whatever I was puzzling through.
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    I like to revisit old poetry,
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    because it shows me exactly
    where I was at that moment.
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    And what it was I was trying
    to navigate and the words
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    that I chose to help me.
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    Now, I have a story
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    that I've been stumbling
    over for years and years
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    and I'm not sure if I've found
    the prefect form,
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    or whether this is just one attempt
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    and I will try to rewrite it later
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    in search of a better way to tell it.
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    But I do know that later, when I look back
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    I will be able to know
    that this is where I was
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    at this moment, and this
    is what I was trying to navigate,
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    with these words, here,
    in this room, with you.
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    So -- Smile.
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    It didn't always work this way.
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    There is a time you have
    to get your hands dirty.
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    When you were in the dark,
    for most of it, fumbling was a given,
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    and you needed more
    contrast, more saturation,
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    darker darks, and brighter brights.
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    They called it extended development.
    It meant you spent
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    longer inhaling chemicals,
    longer up to your wrist.
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    It wasn't always easy.
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    Grandpa Stewart was a navy photographer.
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    Young, red-faced
    with the sleeves rolled up,
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    fists of fingers like fat rolls of coins,
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    he looked like Popeye
    the sailor man, come to life.
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    Crooked smile, tuft of chest hair,
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    he showed up at World War II,
    with a smirk and a hobby.
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    When they asked him if he knew
    much about photography,
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    he lied, learned to read
    Europe like a map,
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    upside down, from the height
    of a fighter plane,
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    camera snapping, eyelids
    flapping, the darkest darks
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    and brightest brights.
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    He learned war like he could
    read his way home.
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    When other men returned,
    they would put their weapons out to rest,
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    but he, brought the lenses
    and the cameras home with him.
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    Opened a shop, turned it
    into a family affair.
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    My father was born into this
    world of black and white.
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    His basketball hands learned
    the tiny clicks and slides
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    of lens into frame, film into camera,
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    chemical into plastic bin.
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    His father knew the equipment
    but not the art.
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    He knew the darks but not the brights.
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    My father learned the magic,
    spent his time following light.
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    Once he traveled across the country
    to follow a forest fire,
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    hunted it with his camera for a week.
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    "Follow the light," he said.
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    "Follow the light."
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    There are parts of me
    I only recognize from photographs.
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    The loft on Wooster street
    with the creaky hallways,
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    the twelve-foot ceilings,
    the white walls and cold floors.
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    This was my mothers home,
    before she was mother.
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    Before she was wife, she was artist.
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    And the only two rooms in the house,
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    with walls that reached
    all the way up to the ceiling,
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    and doors that opened and closed,
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    were the bathroom and the dark room.
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    The dark room she built
    herself, with custom made
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    stainless steel sinks,
    an 8 by 10 bed enlarger
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    that moved up and down by a giant
    hand crank,
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    a bank of color balanced lights,
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    a white glass wall for viewing prints,
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    a drying rack that moved
    in and out from the wall.
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    My mother built herself a dark room.
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    Made it her home.
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    Fell in love with a man
    with basketball hands,
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    with the way he looked at light.
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    They got married. Had a baby.
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    Moved to a house near a park.
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    But they kept the loft at Wooster street
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    for birthday parties and treasure hunts.
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    The baby tipped the gray scale.
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    Filled her parents' photo
    albums with red balloons
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    and yellow icing.
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    The baby grew into a girl
    without freckles,
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    with a crooked smile,
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    who didn’t understand why her friends did
    not have dark rooms in their houses,
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    who never saw her parents kiss,
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    who never saw them hold hands.
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    But one day, another baby showed up.
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    This one with perfect straight
    hair and bubble gum cheeks.
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    They named him sweet potato.
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    When he laughed, he laughed so loudly,
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    he scared the pigeons on the fire escape
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    And the four of them lived
    in that house near the park.
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    The girl with no freckles,
    and the sweet potato boy,
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    the basketball father,
    and the dark room mother
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    and they lit their candles,
    and they said their prayers,
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    and the corners of the photographs curled.
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    One day some towers fell
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    and the house near the park became
    a house under ash, so they escaped.
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    In backpacks, on bicycles to darkrooms
    but the loft of Wooster street
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    was built for an artist,
    not a family of pigeons
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    and walls that do not reach the ceiling
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    do not hold in the yelling
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    and a man with basketball hands
    put his weapons out to rest.
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    He could not fight this war
    and no maps pointed home.
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    His hands no longer fit his camera,
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    no longer fit his wife's,
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    no longer fit his body.
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    The sweet potato boy mashed
    his fists into his mouth
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    until he had nothing more to say.
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    So, the girl without freckles
    went treasure hunting on her own.
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    And on Wooster street, in a building
    with a creaky hallways,
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    and a loft of the 12-foot ceiling
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    and a darkroom with too many sinks
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    under the color balance
    light, she found a note,
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    tacked to the wall thumb-tacked, left
    over from the times before towers,
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    from the time before babies.
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    And the note said: "A guy sure loves
    the girl who works in the darkroom."
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    It was a year before my father
    picked up a camera again.
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    His first time out, he followed
    the Christmas lights,
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    dotting their way through New
    York City's trees.
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    Tiny dots of light, blinking out of him
    from out of the darkest darks.
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    A year later he traveled
    across the country
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    to follow a forest fire,
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    stayed for a week hunting
    it with his camera,
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    it was ravaging the West Coast
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    eating 18-wheeler trucks in its stride.
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    On the other side of the country,
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    I went to class and wrote a poem
    on the margins of my notebook.
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    We have both learned the art of capture.
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    Maybe we are learning
    the art of embracing.
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    Maybe we are learning
    the art of letting go.
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    Thank You. (Applause)
Title:
TEDxEast - Sarah Kay - How many lives can you live?
Description:

Sarah Kay, founder of Project V.O.I.C.E performs and discusses living through storytelling and learning how to stop rushing.

more » « less
Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDxTalks
Duration:
12:24
  • 11
    00:01:09,602 --> 00:01:11,497
    He is cold and sick.
    He has called in sick.

    27
    00:01:51,743 --> 00:01:53,024
    A black whole has erupted.
    A black hole has erupted.

    29
    00:01:56,216 --> 00:01:57,531
    A law and order marathon is starting.
    A Law & Order marathon is starting.

    35
    00:02:09,673 --> 00:02:12,675
    His fingers find the pillowcase, his sailing mask.
    His fingers find the pillowcase's sailing masts.

    92
    00:05:05,464 --> 00:05:08,487
    And its not until recently that I realized
    And it's not until recently that I realized

    198
    00:10:16,570 --> 00:10:18,023
    When she laughed, he laughed so loudly,
    When he laughed, he laughed so loudly,

English subtitles

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