Month: November, 2015

Sharing stories

Shared on Facebook (Nov 19th)

Sometimes, humanizing a big issue can shift your perspective. While the majority of my Facebook family are promoting love instead of fear, this is for those of you still wrestling with the idea of closing our country’s doors to refugees.

My grandmother was born in Syria.
My grandfather was born Israel.
My father, aunts, and uncle were born and raised in Lebanon. And during the Lebanese civil war, immigrated to America. Though they were sponsored by family and did not come seeking asylum, they were indeed refugees fleeing a war torn country. The combined ethnic backgrounds and countries of origin of this family (and the political climate and war at the time) would have been reason enough to fear them and turn them away.

Today, my grandfather owns a plumbing business. My grandmother, before she died, was a mother and a healer. And my dad is a Marine. He served 26 years. And I am here. You know me. And I wouldn’t be here if my family had been turned away.

It’s okay to be scared of what might happen in the future. Consider that there are many, many ways that a situation can turn out. Refugees might come to this country and a few might commit acts of terror. This is true. And many others will raise families that become like my family. If you’re struggling with this issue, I’m offering our story as one that can help put a human face to this very very big issue.


TEDxNaperville 2015

My name is Marina. My role on this year’s leadership team is project manager, so I have a pretty good idea of what it takes to make this event happen. 

It takes eight very passionate, mildly neurotic organizers.
It takes 364 days and 34 volunteers.
It takes a lot of emails. There are 1,131 emails labeled TEDxNaperville in my gmail inbox right now.
And beer. It takes a considerable amount of beer to make this event happen.

This is what I said on stage at TEDxNaperville before my mind went completely blank. Beside me, James, a fellow TEDx organizer. In front of me, 500 attendees, a sold out crowd larger than any this event had seen in its previous 5 years. There with the microphone in my hand, I found myself completely and utterly speechless for perhaps the first and only time in my entire life. My mom will tell you that I spoke my first full sentence (My balloon go up.) at 9 months old and never shut my mouth again. Not knowing what to say does not come naturally to me. Words often tumble right out of my face without any kind of filter. But in the eternity that passed while I stood there on stage, I could not remember what came next in my speech.

“I can’t remember what’s next” I said to James.
There was nothing he could do, of course. In that moment, he could only be there with me in that aching silence that stretched around us.

Several options flashed through my mind in quick succession: I could give up and walk off stage, the host could come out and rescue me, I could cry in front of everyone (which seemed like the most plausible option), or I could finish what I had started and say the parts of my talk that I did remember. I knew in an instant that could not leave the stage without at least attempting to tell the audience about the wonderful and hardworking team that was the backbone of this event.

So despite what I had planned, written and practiced, I went with what I knew: I just opened my mouth and let the words tumble out. I cannot remember what I said. At all. Every detail of the seconds leading up to that moment is crystal clear; I can remember exactly how I felt with the bright light in my eyes and the microphone in my hand. The time I spent speaking is a blur.

And then as soon as I had started, I was done. The mic dropped to my side and (thankfully) muted. And James was waiting with a hug that was the only thing standing between me and a complete emotional unraveling.

I had intended to tell the audience about our TEDx leadership team. To tell them how hard we work, how we are just normal people that care so much about this event and devote so much time and energy to it and to each other. But instead, I think James and I showed them.

I teetered on the edge of a shame spiral for the next few hours. I was just one quiet moment away from total oblivion. But my beautiful, passionate, neurotic little TEDx family wrapped me up and kept me safe from the emotional harm I was prepared to inflict on myself. Instead of being allowed to sit and replay the moment and allow my inner critic to comment, I was swept away by hugs and reassuring words:

 You rock girl!!! I am so proud of you!!!

 “It takes guts to tremble, it takes tremble to love”

Brene told me to tell you that she’s proud of you for your vulnerable moment and for being your authentic self.

Move past it. Show’s on. You’re good.

The swell of love and support buoyed me through the rest of the day.

Don’t get me wrong, I still cried. I found a dark corner backstage and cried furiously for a few minutes immediately after it happened. At the end of the day, a friend held space with me while I cried about it a bit more. But by that point, I just needed to allow the feeling to run through me. I didn’t want or need to feel ashamed or critical about what had happened. I just needed to express my feelings through my eyeballs.

One thing that we endeavor to do at TEDxNaperville is create an experience that attendees will carry with them throughout the year. This year, I had an experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.  I couldn’t have imagined a better group of people to share it with.