January 8, 2014 § 2 Comments
In December, I had the privilege of presenting a 12 minute TEDx presentation at Microsoft. The experience was nothing short of elating – it was all kinds of magic to spend the day in a room of driven, passionate, global female entrepreneurs and the men that support us.
I’ve been asked how I prepared for the talk several times since. Here were the steps I took to prepare, memorize and effectively present my talk:
1. I thought for a long time
I had about four months of thinking time in which I didn’t write much at all. During that time, I experienced several things that actually became the crux of my talk. Many people say you should begin to memorize your talk months and months in advance, but I knew that wouldn’t be organic and fresh for me. This thinking time was vitally important.
2. I wrote
…about three drafts, like I would a blog post or an essay. I didn’t edit for timing or worry about language or punctuation, I focused on getting the idea right. After that, I hit a total block where I knew the idea I was trying to present was fuzzy, so I reached out for help.
3. I gave it
I gave my muddled, totally unclear talk to my family and best friends. It helped me see all the areas that were muddled and unclear, as well as get the confidence boost I needed to get in front of a room of several hundred people.
4. I took it to editors
I took my talk to several different types of editors. The first was a friend of mine who focuses on tech writing. I knew he’d come at my talk with a logical focus, and he did. After that, I took it to a speech writer and campaign editor who helped clarify my key points and made it an argument of sorts. I took it to a former editor of mine after that. This was to breathe life back into it, after the logic. It gave it the emotion and push I knew he was used to getting from my writing.
5. I gave it again
After I went through my round of editors a few times, I gave my talk to a theatre director. First, he combed through everything that didn’t make sense. After I had edited those parts out, I gave it to him again, and again, and again every day for about a week until we nailed it, and he told me to take a break.
6. I memorized
- I memorized my talk in all different environments so that it would be staged or unnatural
- I focused on giving it while doing things, so I was used to having to move through distraction and be conversational
- I never gave it while holding notes
- I gave it to several different people and in several different states (first thing in the morning, late at night, sober, tipsy, tired, sad, angry, happy). That way, I was prepared for whatever came my way when I woke up the morning of my talk
- Something that worked really well for me was to work to give my talk in my head over and over again on the plane from New York to California. I could force myself to remember phrases and words, and had hours at a time to really focus on honing in my thought process surrounding each section
January 6, 2014 § 1 Comment
I’ve been calculating an accurate living wage in Uganda since the summer of 2013.
The goal: To build out a manufacturing facility in Kampala that pays its workers a wage calculated based on cultural and personal needs.
The method: Combining on the ground surveys of small focus groups with adjacent research.
My prior research showed the following:
TRANSPORT: 1800 UGX/day ($.75) – 54,000/mo ($21)
HOUSING: 6000 UGX/day ($2.37) - 180,000/mo ($71)
FOOD: 10,000 UGX/day($3.96) – 30,000/mo ($11.88)
COOKING OIL: 700 UGX/day ($.27) – 21,000/mo ($8.31)
WATER: 1,000 UGX/day ($.39) - 30,000/mo ($11.88)
Afterward, I wrote a post putting the number I came up with (around $125 a month) into context.
A few quick facts from that post:
- Average workers in semi-skilled trade in urban areas earn approx $63 USD per month (BRAC)
- Teachers in Uganda recently went on strike to be paid a living wage.
- They currently are getting $96/month (240,000 UGX) and are asking for double that $192.
- The minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 1984, when it was set at 6,000 shillings (less than $2.50) per month, but there is a minimum wage bill up for debate.
After our first round of calculations, we realized we were missing important categories that had to do more with making a life than they did staying alive. A living wage calculates the creation of a holistic life, rather than a the amount simply needed for survival.
The categories are a little bit different than what I had additionally listed as missing, due to the discretion of my head artisan, who was interacting directly with the women whose expenses we were measuring. Lastly, as a disclaimer, she consistently worked with 9 (instead of 12) women in the second part of this survey.
Second, the results of our second round of calculations:
My final calculation:
A living wage, in our context, means approx $393.74/mo per family. That’s around $12/day, or around $1.50/hr.
January 3, 2014 § 5 Comments
I ate avocado salad out of a big, wooden bowl this summer in East Village, sitting on Ben’s floor and asking him if I could help clean the floors before I took the train home for the night.
“Have another beer man,” he shrugged. “I’ll get up early.”
That was the night C said, very simply, that we all must come out.
“Come out, come out, come out.”
She said it three times, just like that. Like a call to arms. Get off your ass, man. Declare what you are.
She was talking about all kinds of sexuality, but it was bigger than that. In the context of conversation, it was about the totality of the kind of living we choose to do. The people we love, the ways we express ourselves, the choices we make outside the societal or religious norm surrounding us — it all must come out.
That way, they won’t be able to say “gay” without imaging three of our faces. They won’t be able to say “slut” without thinking of their best girlfriend’s wild, wild year. They won’t be able to say “bi” without thinking of their closest friend.
“I’m so much more than the label, man,” C said. “I’m a lover and a fighter. I cry and I learn and I get angry and I am a god damn girl. They’ve got to SEE US, to picture out faces, when all they want to see are labels and sins. It’s got to become inconvenient. And the only way to do it is with love.”
Step one: Come out, come out, come out.
Step two: Love big.
I hadn’t known that C’s description was what I’d wanted when I left my religious upbringing almost two years ago. I just knew I was tired of accepting an organized group’s labeling system. I knew that the resounding “you are not one of us” that followed was like a clanging gong on the face of my entire, beating heart. The depression of being so totally alone, after growing up in such a controlled community, felt like an unraveling of my whole soul. And it was.
I didn’t know where I was running to. I just knew what I was running from. The feeling that I wanted to die. The knowledge that there a million and one things I could never do without losing everyone that cared about me. The audible assurance, from a table of men who had ruled my life by the iron sword of scripture, that I was not, in fact, a “good” kind of girl.
I threw all that off when I moved to New York in 2012. I came out as the girl who believes in love, instead of marriage. I came out as the girl who believes in the spirit of a deity moving in her bones, instead of written scripture. I came out as the girl who doesn’t want to ever go back to a church, and can’t imagine locking it down with anyone who did. I came out as a best friend who loves your daughter, regardless of who she fucked last week.
I came out as the girl that might have encouraged her to do so.
One particular night in Uganda this summer changed everything for me. There was a physical earthquake, a voice, an awakening, and a pull that I couldn’t stop. It confirmed the truth I’d been looking for – the assurance that when I left Evangelical Christianity behind, I made my way out of, instead of into, darkness.
And so, this New Year’s Eve, I toasted to living in the light.
It was a group of six of us that shared gratefulness by the light of candles and fireworks from Grand Army Plaza at midnight. We lifted glasses of champagne and, collectively, we drank to the shining light that had come out of each person’s year.
Mine – with a glass raised high above my head and all that old, aching emptiness falling out of the bottom of my being – was to love. My whole life I’ve been loved in spite of the things I did. I’ve been loved even though I was a sinner, even though I wasn’t quiet enough, even though the elders in the church were battling over me, even though I was promiscuous, even though I was a bad influence on my best friend and not the kind of girl you wanted sitting in church beside your daughter.
I toasted to never going back to that dark place again – to the knowledge that I’m loved for who I am, for the first time. I toasted to living out of my beliefs, instead of a community’s direction. I toasted to never getting married to one of those boys. I toasted to coming out against the college that taught me that hate was okay, if I could justify it with a label for a sinner.
I toasted to the hope that, for the people still living in the darkness, my face is a testimony.
I hope it resounds as a call to come out for the girls that may otherwise be labeled and kept in the dark.
Come out, come out, come out.
Here’s to a brand new year.