To the wonderful, remarkable, courageous people who made Monday happen:
I am writing to you because I need to put into words this all-encompassing, nearly overwhelming feeling of gratitude that is still with me from Monday’s Head Talk.
For I believe that language is empowering and that fostering human connection is not only valuable, but necessary to lead a life of meaning and vitality. This is what Monday was to me. It was the bringing together of many languages, perspectives, and viewpoints and making them all talk to one another. It was creating connections, fostering humanity by bringing people from all walks of life together behind a shared purpose.
On Monday, seven remarkable people shared their stories, research, and practices to lead a life of meaning. A tangible, emotional energy knit the crowd and speakers into one tightly bound embrace. There was no separation or hierarchy. We were all students, all teachers. I learned about equanimity from the audience when they failed to flinch when the mics gave loud feedback that made even me, aspiring yoga girl, wince and react. I was taught presence when the audience remained off their phones and engaged, participated when the speakers solicited feedback, and stayed when the presentation ran past 8:30, not one person budging. The Joy Soldier team taught me trust and amazed me as they created beautiful goodie bags, produced awesome shirts, coached the speakers, and saw through every detail of the event with a level of efficiency and thoroughness beyond what I could have ever fathomed. We had framed this event as one for us to be the ones providing information, but I found myself learning more about myself and others than I ever foresaw.
Hosting this event in the business school had a very special meaning to me, as it is the very place that almost broke me. Two years ago, a shadow of myself, I struggled to get out of bed because I was so depressed and anxious. My suffocating emotions and feeling of helplessness consumed me, as I failed to see the meaning in my own life. I stopped going to class, developed a very unhealthy relationship with food, and was at such a bleak point in my life that it was difficult to see the purpose in living another day. I was so overwhelmed by my unhappiness that I thought my only options were to transfer or to give up on myself.
To host Head Talks in this environment is not only personally empowering, but also crucial. We need to show that there is space in competitive and intense environments for self-compassion and mental health. If we can find the words to articulate our struggles and suffering, we can begin to ask for help. Much of the struggle is finding the words and courage to be vulnerable. I am really grateful that Head Talks was able to bring so many viewpoints together, to show me over and over the power of vulnerability, and to give me new ways of making space in my own life.
A moment that I loved was when one of my friends, a finance major, bounded up to me after the event to share his favorite moment. I assumed it had been the amazing presentation from Mark St. George, for Mark’s presentation from his viewpoint as a Partner at PwC and board member of NAMI was in the language that my friend was most familiar with. But he responded that no, it was the 30 seconds of meditation that Kara led, the first moment of peace he has had all day. It was something he had never done, a language he had never encountered. But he loved it.
As the Joy Soldier team, we spoke a lot about celebrating the inputs, for we weren't sure that there would be an observable output. Honestly, we weren't sure if anyone would even show up. But for Head Talks to have given one person a new method of mindfulness and coping, that is absolutely an output worth celebrating. And there were so many remarkable inputs that made the event possible. This event came together, from an idea to execution, in less than two weeks, a victory to celebrate in itself. It brought together many like-minded people who may have never met. It gave me personally a feeling of vitality and gratitude towards my community, and gave me the opportunity to see my peers shine in ways that I have never before. Who knew that Adam Mastis, a freshman, had given a Ted Talk and could make an amazing Ted Talk how-to guide? Who knew that Katie Lituchy is actually an event planning goddess and could pull together one of the most impressive Google spreadsheets to monitor the event and conduct a goodie bag assembly line that Henry Ford himself surely would have relished? Who knew that Kali Smith and Liv Wujek have a compelling ability to engage an audience and public speak. There are so many stories I could share... I watched each person who helped with Head Talks come alive with their purpose.
And as I made the closing remarks after Sam Orley moved me to tears with his vulnerability and courage, I was amazed by the inputs. Looking at a nearly full auditorium despite it being exam week, hearing the stories of 7 people, most who had never publicly presented, reflecting on the flawless flow of an event that was planned completely by students who all had other student orgs, were in the middle of exam week and recruiting and juggling their own lives. What a remarkable thing Head Talks was.
So I want to say thank you. Thank you for showing up, being present, and teaching me a new language of joy and compassion. This event pushed me and transformed me, has confirmed my faith in this school and its people, and has given me enough blessings to count until I graduate next May.
You did this all yourself, and I am grateful to have bore witness to your magnificence.
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”
Link to Michigan Daily Article here: