Thank You, 2013 – A Dreamer’s Year in Review

This has been a good year! Good in the sense that all my experiences (even the not so good ones) served a purpose. I do believe this year, I’ve been able to set a foundation for the life I’ll be building as the years roll on by. I really like who I’m becoming, and life this year has provided me with so many opportunities to help me uncover that even more.

First, I’d like to say that you dear readers might have noticed a decrease in the frequency of posts on this post, especially this year. To you all who really do enjoy what I have to say on here as it pertains to dreams, I’d like to apologize for it  but know that it is not without good reason.

This year, the deeds part of the blog – of Dreams and Deeds  – (glance over the about section of the blog if you may) took much more precedence, whereas it’s always been second nature for me to emphasize about the dreams. In essence, I was taking action (in my own little way that I can) towards achieving some of the dreams I’ve been talking about.

With the help of Facebook (and my journal), I’ll be sharing the highlights of my year in so far as they’ve helped to shape an outlook on life, where the daring (while somewhat small but yet scary!) for carrying out the deeds that’ll help fulfill certain dreams which as as a result makes me more open to what life has to offer. [The colored words in the post are clickable links for your perusal]

In *retrospect, it’s so beautiful to see how these experiences have in some way shaped the things I’ve written on here on the blog and vice versa.

*From the words of a man, Soren Kierkekaard, who I consider to be my favorite philosopher (what do you know, he’s an existentialist! Big surprise, eh?) :

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

And as I look back in order to understand the life I’ve lived forward since January of this year, I’ll talk about personal experiences of each month while also sharing the posts I managed to write in the respective months.

In January, right after graduation last year, I started work with an After School program. This will be my first job ever, and I’ll leave you to imagine the excitement at receiving my first pay stub. Looking back, this most likely set the tone for the year where I managed to find myself in a series of firsts. Here on the blog, there were posts about: goals for the new year; honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King; the human nature, and it’s longing for exploration.

The words shared from the third post about exploration reads:

The only limit is the one you set yourself.

And this I’ll come to understand, if only a bit, in the next few months.

I started off the very first day of February with an interview for a position that’ll later provide the content for the only post on the blog for that month. I would tell you whether I got the position or not, but I think I’ll let you check it out to find out for yourself.

Following the one of the goals I made for the year, Goal #13  – aptly titled: DO, I managed to watch a football game (the whole game!) I also managed to, as part of Goal #13, take more interest in politics by watching the State of the Union Address. For Goal #18, aimed at embodying the “we” spirit, I found myself assisting a friend with his project. 

The Diploma arrived at my doorsteps. I wrote a poem (about love) and a friend helped me to record it. As part of The Making A Difference Project by Jeremy Lin –  to support nonprofits that serve underprivileged youth in Houston, TX – PAIR (Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees), an organization I was privileged to spend two semesters volunteering for won. A vote was all it took, from me and friends I shared the link with, and friends of those friends who shared the link and…. The next few months following this, the pictures from current volunteers and staff at PAIR will be testament to the impact of the support.

February was far from over though. On Facebook, I decided to pick someone randomly for each day of the week, and post as a status something nice (at least I hoped!) about them. The mere fact that I completed it was a success! Let alone the fact that I was able to add something of worth to people’s days. I’d like to think I was mostly influenced to do so by this video from SoulPancake. The month ends well, with me coming across a quote that will become defining (Whatever you do, don’t skip to October!) in the next few months.

“Be humble you are made of earth. Be noble you are made of stars”

March was mostly a fight for LIFE. It brought with it a reminder of a friend’s death the previous year. I avoided two collisions (with my first car, which I just started driving that month!). I cried! And the will to live was oh so essential! And live, I did. At times, all it took was something as simple as: reading a book – The Invitation; getting out to hang out with other people; conversations that sparked possibilities; the honest smile of a child – upon recalling a memory. And before the month ended, I could say:

You ever look back, smile, and say to yourself “It’s been a good life!”? I just did

It doesn’t come as a surprise to me that April was spent outside of Facebook – account was deactivated. The 3rd day of this new month, with me attending a simulcast event of TEDxChange, would later mark the material inception of my journey towards becoming a TEDx speaker.  There were small moments that ultimately coalesced into being able to write in my journal:

#Grateful: For Life. For all than I am, and all that I hope to be. Life is beautiful.

Also from my journal,

“I was totally captivated by the words of Rumi; and shouted like a maniac especially after reading most of the words…”

This would explain the post about him on the blog for the month. Interestingly, the only one for this month (I’m noticing a pattern here!)

I started this blog a year ago in May, which would by itself not have started if not for my experience at LeaderShape (also a year ago in May!) Few friends I made at LeaderShape graduated. There was another accident, which this time resulted in scratches (albeit minor) on the car. With the Citizenship Interview, I took a step closer to becoming a US citizen. I finished my position as an After School Counselor, but didn’t finish without the realization of how much of a difference I have made (and can make) in the lives of kids.

In June, I became an American. With an invitation to speak then perform a poem at the TEDGlobal 2013 simulcast, my TEDx journey continued.

Third day into July, a conversation to continue the journey took place with the TEDxHouston organizers. I visited a waterpark, something I do believe counts as achieving Goal #13, and tried to learn how to swim…key word: tried!

August started with a job interview for the Grad. Assistant position I currently have. Well, I started Grad. School (a specialist degree in School Psychology) Yet another first, I paid my first rest…ever! In what became an interesting turn of events, a camping trip with some friends became a visit to the beach. Again, Goal #13.

In September, I turned 23. 6 days before I did, there was another accident. The declaration in my poem, Unmask, becomes even much more stronger.

I am alive…I am here for a reason!

My journey led me to the TEDxHouston stage in October. (Clicking the picture will take you to the video)

TEDxHouston 2013 - Ayokunle Falomo

If you watch the video, you’ll hear me mention something about the ubuntu philosophy which brought to me a realization that “I’m a product of the people I’ve surrounded myself with.” And I’m surrounded by people who are doing seemingly simple yet extraordinary things.

November rolled by, and with events I was invited to, I was able to spend time with people (friends who I’d known a while; and ones who, strangers before, recently have just become so) who identify with the same mission of making the world a much more friendlier place…in rather simple ways too. Some conversations sparked creative ideas…for life, as well as the work I do as a poet! For Thanksgiving, while I did not have a post on the blog, there were a few things to be thankful for:

Thanksgiving 2013 status

And now December! I *finished my first semester as a graduate student (*for one, and considerably well, for another). Celebrated yet another graduation with friends. Overcame my irrational fear of using the washing machine (for some reason, I thought I would ruin either the machine, my clothes or who knows, both!) Just two days ago, had success with using chopsticks for an entire meal where before I would’ve ended up asking for a fork. And now, the end of the year.

Of course, I’m only writing exactly the things I’d like for you to know. Life, and our stories of it, does not present itself to us in a linear manner as I have managed to do here but the distractions, diversions, and even complete derails on this journey that we are all taking is minor, well, only in the face of the big dreams we have.

I am in no way dismissing experiences I’ve had this year of nights that sleep and food had to be sacrificed; nights when even with small victories, mistakes and perceived failures seemed so overwhelming enough to keep the tears flowing; car breakdown, eventually! (could be a result of the accidents I documented above?); days of insecurity, and bouts of self-doubt even when there’s a lot to be confident about… 

These are few things I could show you from my journal but that wouldn’t be necessary because in the same journal, you’ll see these words:

“…you don’t learn any other way but through experience and I am willing to go through life experiencing everything; that’s how you grow!”

For me, “everything” includes the fun moments, as well as the not-so-fun ones. And on that note, I’ll end the post the same way I began:

[2013] has been a good year! Good in the sense that all my experiences (even the not so good ones) served a purpose.

And if you’re wondering my plans for 2014, it’s simple (though it’s easy to want to avoid it): LIVE, by embracing ALL that life has to offer. The 22 goals will continue in some shape or form, and this post by a friend (with things like: Dance even if there’s no music, Live purposely, etc…) is an inspiration for things that I can incorporate to living fully as well. A word which I hope will drive all my action for the new year is PARTNERSHIP. And this, I’ll seek purposefully!

Readers, I’ll say the same thing to you as I would myself: have yourself a prosperous year ahead! Dreams are fun, but please, let’s take action…in the little ways we can.

My TEDx Journey…

This journey started a while back, a few years ago by accident. I can’t really remember what the first TED talk I saw was, and at the time, I was not even aware of what TED really was. And then after a long time, I saw another. And then, it progressed into me being obsessed about the Talks to the point where I saw at least one TEDTalk almost every morning. That fizzled out eventually, but later my love for what TED got rekindled. Of course, one of the ways it got rekindled was through LeaderShape (I’ve said earlier that everything I’ll be posting on here has something to do with my experience at this leadership retreat)

One talk we were shown was by Benjamin Zander, the author of The Art of Possibility. If you’ve been following the blog, the name looks familiar. And that’s because I’ve written posts about him on this blog on how much inspiration he’s been to the life I’m living as a dreamer. You would have to see for yourself why I consider his one of my favorite talks. Below:

Fast forward a few months after LeaderShape, hundreds of TEDtalks videos, TedxHouston 2012 came around and I decided I was going to go attend it. Unfortunately, tickets ran out before I could get myself a spot in the audience. I went for one of the simulcast events where they show the actual event as it happens live.

Still continuing to watch religiously, now following updates – more especially from TedxHouston, I learned about some events they had, and decided to show up for one of them in April. Below is a screenshot of the outcome of me going there:

TedxHoustonChange 2012
TEDxHoustonChange 2013

The poem in question is the poem I made to celebrate my 22nd birthday. There’s enough post already about why the poem is significant to me. Below:

The theme of the event was Positive Disruption, and I felt the poem and all it represents was tailored to that theme. I’m an introvert, and there are times I choose to keep quiet rather than share what I have to say because everything/one else is loud. The washing machine in my stomach is loud enough to drown the sound of my voice. I mounted up the courage to go before the audience and share the poem, and added that “being transparent and being vulnerable by sharing our own stories – fighting against our insecurities and perceived imperfections – is an act of positive disruption”

Fast forward to a few months after, I receive this in my email:

“…It’s my pleasure to invite you to perform at our TEDxGlobal simulcast on June 12th at START Houston!…”

TedxHoustonGlobal 2013

The theme for the TEDGlobal Conference, taking place in Scotland, which will be finishing today is #ThinkAgain. I was thinking of performing the poem Unmask again, and while I was trying to find sections of the poem I could tie to the theme, I realized that it wouldn’t be that fitting. And so, I had to… well, think again.

I decided to go with a poem I had written about 2 years ago (minus few months?) called STOP. I had performed it 2 times already so I was quite familiar and comfortable with it and decided it was a great choice for this event, especially since it lends itself beautifully well to the theme. And then with that settled, I had to fashion the content of my talk in a way that would make for a smooth transition to the poem.

Usually, it’s bound to happen: I start to question if it was in my place to talk about stopping especially since I have a hard time doing it – which in an ironic way is why I really really love the poem; it is a constant reminder for me that I just have to. I have the words memorized and I repeat the whole thing to myself whenever I feel the need to STOP. The response I got from people afterwards affirmed that it was indeed in my place to say what I had to say; that I was indeed supposed to be there! I’m super grateful! I love the fact that I was able to connect with the people in the room on a very personal level, the space that was created by their reception was warm, and felt really intimate. I loved every minute I spent there.

Of course, I should have made efforts to record or at least take pictures, but I did not 😦 I promise to find out if anybody recorded it (video or photo) and would like to share the files with me , so I can have it as some sort of souvenir for myself, and to share with others as well. If you’re reading this and you did (or know someone who possibly did), do get in touch. Thanks, I’ll love you forever if you do 🙂

Afterwards, Roxanne Paiva, the Founder of Our Global Village spoke about her organization and the amazing resources they provide to help with grassroots leadership across the world. In Houston, it’s through The Community Cloth, designed to help provide income for refugee women. She shared an interesting story about how she came about creating this organization following a trip to Thailand; and from having trouble finding a name for it – We are one? The one? before she settled for OGV – to struggling with the mission statement; to not having a team (except if you counted her mom, and friends who did not know what the heck they were doing. She admitted she still doesn’t know what she’s doing)

Eventually, we all settled down to watch the simulcast of the actual TEDGlobal Conference; videos from Session 6 (World on Its Head) and Session 7 (Regeneration) to be exact. All in all, it was quite a productive day! Certainly one to be remembered for the stories I hope to still tell. This IS something to me! It means quite a lot, but ironically, compared to what I still hope to do; it’s nothing!

*The next mission is joining TEDxHouston as speaker/performer for TedxHouston 2013, #TheOtherThings. A boy can dream, but one thing I do know: dreams do come true.

I hope I do get a copy of a recording of the event, but if I don’t, I have a transcript of the talk I gave (including the words to the poem) here, and you can download yourself a copy of it: Ayokunle Falomo: Think Again, TedxHoustonGlobal 2013

  __________________ . _________________ . ____________

UPDATE:

Yes! That dream of speaking at the TEDxHouston 2013 event did come true.

& two years later, for TEDxHouston 2015, I was again invited to be a part of the event, this time, to host one of the sessions. Considering it’s something I know how to do well, I started off with a poem.

AYOKUNLE FALOMO, TEDxHouston 2015 - Opening Poem
AYOKUNLE FALOMO, TEDxHouston – Opening Poem

You have to admit, it’s quite the journey!