Inspirational Speaker

To Those Who Want to Give Up

Sunset in Oakland, California

Earlier this year I took a course on Death, Loss, and Meaning in Existential Psychology. I assure you, it was as intense as it sounds.

It was also one of the greatest, most inspiring courses I have ever taken in my entire academic career — easily coming into my Top 3 favorite classes of all time. We dug deep within ourselves and each other. We questioned religion and our own belief systems. We wrestled with the notion that the Universe could care less about us when we care so much about ourselves. We questioned what it means to be happy. We questioned the value of suffering. We questioned the meaning of life and whether or not one’s meaning is the same as one’s purpose. Does meaning have to be meaningful? What if my meaning of life is different from your meaning of life? What if my purpose is destined to be hard? What if my purpose is different from how I find meaning? What if it won’t be fun? Is it even worth it?

And above all: Why me?

Ah, the million-dollar Hero’s Journey question. I often wonder what Martin Luther King Jr.’s response was. Or Odysseus’s. Or Amelia Earhart’s. Or Gandhi’s. Or Malala Yousafzai’s.

Today, the answers aren’t any clearer. But, I find comfort in the fact that I am not the only one to question. Nor will I be the last. This project is dedicated to all of us who ask “What’s the point?” May these words give you strength, lift you up, and remind you that where human life still exists, so does hope.

Blessings, friends.

Presentation Cover Image
Photo credit: Amelia Isabel

A Visit from Maya Angelou

Christmas lights strung across a room

Once upon a time, the Greeks believed in invisible fairy creatures called “dæmons” or “geniuses” that served as spirit guides and the ultimate connection to one’s divine creativity. They helped us to transcend, become one with our calling, and step closer to understanding what life is all about.

What if invisible fairies weren’t the only ones helping us in our creative acts?

Last week, I had a unique opportunity to intimately bear witness to my own creative process as a new poem burbled up inside me like a cork floating up to the surface in a pool of champagne. A classmate of mine shared the following lines in our poetry course:

It’s the strangest sensation to be happily lonely
to keep the thoughts of a universe, safe inside a humbled heart
It’s a whimsical place, to feel luckily bound in a body 
that won’t misuse its wisdom

With my genius at my side, we wrote this piece:

Sanctuary within a Temple
A Reflection on the Universe within the Body

My heart space
Is a child’s bedroom
A warm womb where I am tucked away
Beneath a rolling sea of linen and down
Looking up through soft sheer canopy curtains
At the twinkling lights of the universe
Strung across the ceiling
Gently swaying
To the pulse of my chamber walls
Rocking me into the safest slumber

And ultimately, the following story. I didn’t realize it right away, but as the last line came out, I gradually noticed something different about my poetic genius. The familiar sensation of a whimsical story began banging around inside my ribs, commanding to be heard. And I obliged.

Dr. Angelou, this one’s for you.

Screenshot of my youtube video, A Visit from Maya Angelou

“Lights” photo credit: Chris Jones

Gratitude! Gratitude! Gratituuuuuude!

The support and feedback from my talk on beauty has been nothing short of amazing. My soul is overflowing with so much gratitude from truly phenomenal people. On top of the audience feedback I got from my first Open Mic last week, here are some more comments that truly touched me:

From a beautiful and brave family member who has battled breast cancer:

Thank you for sharing this wisdom Amelia. You’ve shown me that I don’t have to be afraid of the way I’m changing physically due to having a mastectomy, or due to my age, or due to my particular feelings that day that tell me that I can’t go out of the house and see people. Your experience of coming to know that your true beauty is all parts of you has helped me to not be sad today as I realize there is more to me than my face, hair and clothes. I will accept who I am as a whole. Thank you for sharing your beautiful self!

From a dear friend who recently had a baby:

I listened to your open mic and it got me thinking about how after having [my baby] I’ve been avoiding pictures because of how I feel about my after body. Thanks lovely for the reflection.

From an inspiring new friend after having too much bourbon last night (paraphrasing):

Your talk was really inspiring. It made me realize just how much I’ve been picking at my flaws recently and how it’s been getting me down. I’ve always thought about how my hair part goes the other way, because I can see it in photos, so I’m conscious of it. You helped me to step back and see myself for who I really am. I really want to experience the True Mirror, too.

I was also recently spotlighted as a “Bald Beauty” by The Bald Movement, an organization that empowers women who are bald either by circumstance or by choice.

Spotlighted on The Bald Movement Instagram

AND if that wasn’t amazing enough, Daniel, the facilitator of Austin Java Open Mic wrote up a FANTASTIC review on my performance, saying, “It was really easy to take in all the emotion of what she was getting across and I felt like Amelia and I had a lived a lifelong friendship together by the time she was done.” Aww, shucks. 🙂 Read the entire review here.

My next Open Mic will be at BookWoman on North Lamar at 7:15 tonight! Come and share your own poems and stories!

I Shaved my Head. And This is Why.

A month ago I shaved my head. Last night at an Open Mic at Austin Java, I explained why.

The audience feedback was incredible. My heart is swelling with so much gratitude. In my piece, I discuss the history of the reflected self and our culture’s obsession with mirrors. Well, right before the evening began, a group of visually impaired students came in, and I though Oh my god…how am I going to be able to do this talk now?! But, it could not have been more perfect. They were the most supportive of my talk, as it resonated with them, too. One of them actually told me that she recently “came out” and that my presentation encouraged her. I was so humbled by her bravery. What better compliment can you ask for! Another woman came up to me later and thanked me for my existence. I have never been thanked before for existing! She told me that I needed to share this story far and wide, so here I go.

This piece is dedicated to Joanna McAfee and her brother Paul. My journey over the years started with her sweet courage. I have never forgotten her story, nor will I ever.

Screenshot of Why I Shaved my Head You Tube video