Return to Video

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

  • 0:15 - 0:21
    (Singing) I see the moon. The moon sees me.
  • 0:21 - 0:27
    The moon sees somebody that I don't see.
  • 0:27 - 0:33
    God bless the moon, and god bless me,
  • 0:33 - 0:40
    and God bless that somebody that I don't see.
  • 0:40 - 0:46
    If I get to heaven, before you do,
  • 0:46 - 0:53
    I'll make a hole and pull you through.
  • 0:53 - 0:58
    And I'll write your name, on every star,
  • 0:58 - 1:02
    and that way the world,
  • 1:02 - 1:06
    won't seem so far.
  • 1:06 - 1:10
    The astronaut will not be at work today.
  • 1:10 - 1:11
    He is cold and sick.
  • 1:11 - 1:17
    He has turned off his cell phone, his laptop, his pager, his alarm clock.
  • 1:17 - 1:20
    There is a fat yellow cat asleep on his couch,
  • 1:20 - 1:22
    rain drops against the window,
  • 1:22 - 1:25
    and not even the hint of coffee in the kitchen air.
  • 1:25 - 1:27
    Everybody is in a tizzy.
  • 1:27 - 1:31
    The engineers on the 15th floor have stopped working on their particle machine.
  • 1:31 - 1:33
    The anti gravity room is leaking
  • 1:33 - 1:34
    and even the freckled kid with glasses,
  • 1:34 - 1:37
    whose only job is to take out the trash, is nervous,
  • 1:37 - 1:40
    fumbles the bag, spils a banana peel and a paper cup.
  • 1:40 - 1:41
    Nobody notices.
  • 1:41 - 1:44
    They are too busy recalculating what this all mean for lost time.
  • 1:44 - 1:47
    How many galaxies are we losing per second.
  • 1:47 - 1:49
    How long before next rocket can be launched, somewhere.
  • 1:49 - 1:52
    An electron flies off its energy cloud.
  • 1:52 - 1:53
    A black whole has erupted.
  • 1:53 - 1:56
    A mother finishes setting the table for dinner.
  • 1:56 - 1:58
    A law and order marathon is starting.
  • 1:58 - 2:00
    The astronaut is asleep.
  • 2:00 - 2:02
    He has forgotten to turn off his watch,
  • 2:02 - 2:05
    which ticks, like a metal pulse against his wrist.
  • 2:05 - 2:07
    He does not hear it.
  • 2:07 - 2:10
    He dreams of coral reefs and plankton.
  • 2:10 - 2:13
    His fingers find the pillowcase, his sailing mask.
  • 2:13 - 2:15
    He turns on his side. Opens his eyes at once.
  • 2:15 - 2:21
    He thinks that scuba divers must have
    the most wonderful job in the world.
  • 2:21 - 2:24
    So much water to glide through!
  • 2:26 - 2:31
    (Applause)
  • 2:31 - 2:33
    Thank you.
  • 2:33 - 2:37
    When I was little, I could not understand the concept
  • 2:37 - 2:40
    that you could only live one life.
  • 2:40 - 2:42
    I don't mean this metaphorically.
  • 2:42 - 2:45
    I mean, I literally thought that I was going to get to do
  • 2:45 - 2:48
    everything that there was to do
  • 2:48 - 2:50
    and be everything there was to be.
  • 2:50 - 2:52
    It was only a matter of time.
  • 2:52 - 2:55
    Ad there was no limitation based on age, or gender,
  • 2:55 - 2:58
    or race or even appropriate time period.
  • 2:58 - 3:01
    I was sure that I was going to actually experience
  • 3:01 - 3:06
    what it felt like to be a leader of the civil right movement,
  • 3:06 - 3:08
    or a ten-year old boy living on a farm during the dust bowl,
  • 3:08 - 3:12
    or an emperor of the Tang dynasty in China.
  • 3:12 - 3:15
    My mom says that when people asked me what
  • 3:15 - 3:20
    I wanted to be when I grew up, my typical response was princess-ballerina-astronaut.
  • 3:20 - 3:25
    And what she doesn't understand is that I wasn't trying to invent some combined super profession.
  • 3:25 - 3:29
    I was listing things I thought I was gonna get to be:
  • 3:29 - 3:32
    a princess, and a ballerina, and an astronaut.
  • 3:32 - 3:34
    and I'm pretty sure the list probably went on from there.
  • 3:34 - 3:37
    I usually just got cut off.
  • 3:37 - 3:42
    It was never a question of if I was going to do something, so much of a question of when.
  • 3:42 - 3:45
    And I was sure that if I was going to do everything,
  • 3:45 - 3:47
    that it probably meant I had to move pretty quickly,
  • 3:47 - 3:49
    because there was a lot of stuff I needed to do.
  • 3:49 - 3:51
    So my life was constantly in a state of rushing.
  • 3:51 - 3:53
    I was always scared that I was falling behind.
  • 3:53 - 3:57
    And since I grew up in New York City, as far as I could tell,
  • 3:57 - 4:00
    rushing was pretty normal.
  • 4:00 - 4:04
    But, as I grew up, I had this sinking realization,
  • 4:04 - 4:08
    that I wasn't gonna get to live any more than one life
  • 4:08 - 4:11
    I only knew what it felt like to be a teenage girl
  • 4:11 - 4:12
    in New York City,
  • 4:12 - 4:15
    not a teenage boy in New Zealand,
  • 4:15 - 4:18
    not a prom queen in Kansas.
  • 4:18 - 4:21
    I only got to see through my lens and it was around this time
  • 4:21 - 4:23
    that I became obsessed with stories,
  • 4:23 - 4:25
    because it was through stories that I was able to see
  • 4:25 - 4:30
    through someone else's lens, however briefly or imperfectly.
  • 4:30 - 4:34
    And I started craving hearing other people's experiences
  • 4:34 - 4:37
    because I was so jealous that there were entire lives
  • 4:37 - 4:39
    that I was never gonna get to live, and I wanted to hear
  • 4:39 - 4:41
    about everything that I was missing.
  • 4:41 - 4:43
    And by transitive property, I realized
  • 4:43 - 4:46
    that some people were never going to get to experience what it felt like
  • 4:46 - 4:49
    to be a teenage girl in New York city.
  • 4:49 - 4:51
    Which meant that they weren’t going to know
  • 4:51 - 4:54
    what the subway ride after your first kiss feels like,
  • 4:54 - 4:57
    or how quiet it gets when its snows,
  • 4:57 - 4:59
    and I wanted them to know, I wanted to tell them
  • 4:59 - 5:02
    and this became the focus of my obsession.
  • 5:02 - 5:05
    I busied myself telling stories and sharing stories and collecting them.
  • 5:05 - 5:08
    And its not until recently that I realized
  • 5:08 - 5:12
    that I can't always rush poetry.
  • 5:12 - 5:16
    In April for National Poetry Month there's this challenge that,
  • 5:16 - 5:19
    many poets in the poetry community participate in,
  • 5:19 - 5:21
    and its called the 30/30 Challenge.
  • 5:21 - 5:27
    The idea is you write a new poem every single day for the entire month of April.
  • 5:27 - 5:30
    And last year I tried it for the first time, and I was thrilled
  • 5:30 - 5:34
    by the efficiency at which I was able to produce poetry.
  • 5:34 - 5:38
    But at the end of the month I looked back at these 30 poems I had written,
  • 5:38 - 5:42
    and discovered that they were all trying to tell the same story,
  • 5:42 - 5:47
    it had just taken me 30 tries to figure out the way that it wanted to be told.
  • 5:47 - 5:51
    And I realized that this is probably true of other stories on an even larger scale.
  • 5:51 - 5:53
    I have stories that I have tried to tell for years,
  • 5:53 - 5:57
    rewriting and rewriting and constantly searching for the right words.
  • 5:57 - 6:01
    There's a French poet, an essayist by the name of Paul Valery
  • 6:01 - 6:05
    who said a poem is never finished, it is only abandoned.
  • 6:05 - 6:07
    And this terrifies me because it implies that
  • 6:07 - 6:11
    I could keep reediting and rewriting forever and its up to me to decide
  • 6:11 - 6:16
    when a poem is finished and when I can walk away from it.
  • 6:16 - 6:18
    And this goes directly against my very obsessive nature to try
  • 6:18 - 6:22
    to find the right answer, and the perfect words, and the right form.
  • 6:22 - 6:27
    And I use poetry in my life, as a way to help me navigate an work through things.
  • 6:27 - 6:30
    But just because I end the poem, doesn't mean that I've solved
  • 6:30 - 6:33
    whatever I was puzzling through.
  • 6:33 - 6:35
    I like to revisit old poetry,
  • 6:35 - 6:39
    because it shows me exactly where I was at that moment.
  • 6:39 - 6:41
    And what it was I was trying to navigate and the words
  • 6:41 - 6:43
    that I chose to help me.
  • 6:43 - 6:47
    Now, I have a story that I've been stumbling over for years and years
  • 6:47 - 6:50
    and I'm not sure if I've found the prefect form,
  • 6:50 - 6:52
    or whether this is just one attempt
  • 6:52 - 6:54
    and I will try to rewrite it later
  • 6:54 - 6:56
    in search of a better way to tell it.
  • 6:56 - 6:59
    But I do know that later, when I look back
  • 6:59 - 7:02
    I will be able to know that this is where I was
  • 7:02 - 7:05
    at this moment, and this is what I was trying to navigate,
  • 7:05 - 7:10
    with these words, here, in this room, with you.
  • 7:11 - 7:13
    So -- Smile.
  • 7:20 - 7:23
    It didn't always work this way.
  • 7:23 - 7:25
    There is a time you have to get your hands dirty.
  • 7:25 - 7:29
    When you were in the dark, for most of it, fumbling was a given,
  • 7:29 - 7:32
    and you needed more contrast, more saturation,
  • 7:32 - 7:35
    darker darks, and brighter brights.
  • 7:35 - 7:38
    They called it extended development. It meant you spent
  • 7:38 - 7:41
    longer inhaling chemicals, longer up to your wrist.
  • 7:41 - 7:42
    It wasn't always easy.
  • 7:42 - 7:45
    Grandpa Stewart was a navy photographer.
  • 7:45 - 7:48
    Young, red-faced with the sleeves rolled up,
  • 7:48 - 7:51
    fists of fingers like fat rolls of coins,
  • 7:51 - 7:55
    he looked like Popeye the sailor man, come to life.
  • 7:55 - 7:56
    Crooked smile, tuft of chest hair,
  • 7:56 - 8:00
    he showed up at World War II, with a smirk and a hobby.
  • 8:00 - 8:02
    When they asked him if he knew much about photography,
  • 8:02 - 8:06
    he lied, learned to read Europe like a map,
  • 8:06 - 8:09
    upside down, from the height of a fighter plane,
  • 8:09 - 8:12
    camera snapping, eyelids flapping, the darkest darks
  • 8:12 - 8:14
    and brightest brights.
  • 8:14 - 8:17
    He learned war like he could read his way home.
  • 8:17 - 8:19
    When other men returned, they would put their weapons out to rest,
  • 8:19 - 8:23
    but he, brought the lenses and the cameras home with him.
  • 8:23 - 8:26
    Opened a shop, turned it into a family affair.
  • 8:26 - 8:29
    My father was born into this world of black and white.
  • 8:29 - 8:33
    His basketball hands learned the tiny clicks and slides
  • 8:33 - 8:35
    of lens into frame, film into camera,
  • 8:35 - 8:37
    chemical into plastic bin.
  • 8:37 - 8:40
    His father knew the equipment but not the art.
  • 8:40 - 8:42
    He knew the darks but not the brights.
  • 8:42 - 8:46
    My father learned the magic, spent his time following light.
  • 8:46 - 8:49
    Once he traveled across the country to follow a forest fire,
  • 8:49 - 8:52
    hunted it with his camera for a week.
  • 8:52 - 8:54
    "Follow the light," he said.
  • 8:54 - 8:56
    "Follow the light."
  • 8:56 - 8:58
    There are parts of me I only recognize from photographs.
  • 8:58 - 9:02
    The loft on Wooster street with the creaky hallways,
  • 9:02 - 9:05
    the twelve-foot ceilings, the white walls and cold floors.
  • 9:05 - 9:07
    This was my mothers home, before she was mother.
  • 9:07 - 9:10
    Before she was wife, she was artist.
  • 9:10 - 9:12
    And the only two rooms in the house,
  • 9:12 - 9:14
    with walls that reached all the way up to the ceiling,
  • 9:14 - 9:16
    and doors that opened and closed,
  • 9:16 - 9:19
    were the bathroom and the dark room.
  • 9:19 - 9:21
    The dark room she built herself, with custom made
  • 9:21 - 9:25
    stainless steel sinks, an 8 by 10 bed enlarger
  • 9:25 - 9:27
    that moved up and down by a giant hand crank,
  • 9:27 - 9:29
    a bank of color balanced lights,
  • 9:29 - 9:31
    a white glass wall for viewing prints,
  • 9:31 - 9:34
    a drying rack that moved in and out from the wall.
  • 9:34 - 9:36
    My mother built herself a dark room.
  • 9:36 - 9:37
    Made it her home.
  • 9:37 - 9:40
    Fell in love with a man with basketball hands,
  • 9:40 - 9:42
    with the way he looked at light.
  • 9:42 - 9:44
    They got married. Had a baby.
  • 9:44 - 9:46
    Moved to a house near a park.
  • 9:46 - 9:49
    But they kept the loft at Wooster street
  • 9:49 - 9:51
    for birthday parties and treasure hunts.
  • 9:51 - 9:54
    The baby tipped the gray scale.
  • 9:54 - 9:56
    Filled her parents' photo albums with red balloons
  • 9:56 - 9:57
    and yellow icing.
  • 9:57 - 10:00
    The baby grew into a girl without freckles,
  • 10:00 - 10:01
    with a crooked smile,
  • 10:01 - 10:06
    who didn’t understand why her friends did not have dark rooms in their houses,
  • 10:06 - 10:07
    who never saw her parents kiss,
  • 10:07 - 10:09
    who never saw them hold hands.
  • 10:09 - 10:11
    But one day, another baby showed up.
  • 10:11 - 10:15
    This one with perfect straight hair and bubble gum cheeks.
  • 10:15 - 10:17
    They named him sweet potato.
  • 10:17 - 10:18
    When she laughed, he laughed so loudly,
  • 10:18 - 10:20
    he scared the pigeons on the fire escape
  • 10:20 - 10:23
    And the four of them lived in that house near the park.
  • 10:23 - 10:26
    The girl with no freckles, and the sweet potato boy,
  • 10:26 - 10:28
    the basketball father, and the dark room mother
  • 10:28 - 10:31
    and they lit their candles, and they said their prayers,
  • 10:31 - 10:34
    and the corners of the photographs curled.
  • 10:34 - 10:36
    One day some towers fell
  • 10:36 - 10:40
    and the house near the park became a house under ash, so they escaped.
  • 10:40 - 10:45
    In backpacks, on bicycles to darkrooms but the loft of Wooster street
  • 10:45 - 10:49
    was built for an artist, not a family of pigeons
  • 10:49 - 10:51
    and walls that do not reach the ceiling
  • 10:51 - 10:52
    do not hold in the yelling
  • 10:52 - 10:57
    and a man with basketball hands put his weapons out to rest.
  • 10:57 - 11:00
    He could not fight this war and no maps pointed home.
  • 11:00 - 11:02
    His hands no longer fit his camera,
  • 11:02 - 11:03
    no longer fit his wife's,
  • 11:03 - 11:06
    no longer fit his body.
  • 11:06 - 11:09
    The sweet potato boy mashed his fists into his mouth
  • 11:09 - 11:10
    until he had nothing more to say.
  • 11:10 - 11:14
    So, the girl without freckles went treasure hunting on her own.
  • 11:14 - 11:18
    And on Wooster street, in a building with a creaky hallways,
  • 11:18 - 11:19
    and a loft of the 12-foot ceiling
  • 11:19 - 11:21
    and a darkroom with too many sinks
  • 11:21 - 11:24
    under the color balance light, she found a note,
  • 11:24 - 11:29
    tacked to the wall thumb-tacked, left over from the times before towers,
  • 11:29 - 11:31
    from the time before babies.
  • 11:31 - 11:37
    And the note said: "A guy sure loves the girl who works in the darkroom."
  • 11:37 - 11:41
    It was a year before my father picked up a camera again.
  • 11:41 - 11:44
    His first time out, he followed the Christmas lights,
  • 11:44 - 11:46
    dotting their way through New York City's trees.
  • 11:46 - 11:51
    Tiny dots of light, blinking out of him from out of the darkest darks.
  • 11:51 - 11:55
    A year later he traveled across the country to follow a forest fire,
  • 11:55 - 11:58
    stayed for a week hunting it with his camera,
  • 11:58 - 11:59
    it was ravaging the West Coast
  • 11:59 - 12:01
    eating 18-wheeler trucks in its stride.
  • 12:01 - 12:03
    On the other side of the country,
  • 12:03 - 12:06
    I went to class and wrote a poem on the margins of my notebook.
  • 12:06 - 12:09
    We have both learned the art of capture.
  • 12:09 - 12:11
    Maybe we are learning the art of embracing.
  • 12:11 - 12:16
    Maybe we are learning the art of letting go.
  • 12:16 - 126:07
    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:
closed 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

Revisions Compare revisions