Last summer, I attended the eighth year of the World Domination Summit (WDS), in Portland, OR. It’s a weekend conference, that becomes a week-long experience as attendees organize additional talks, activities and experiences during the days leading up to it. Attendees often sign up for the next year on the last day to make sure they have a spot. The underlying themes of WDS are community, service and adventure. I know, the name doesn’t sound like it, but it’s like going to inspiration camp. If there’s something in you that you want to achieve, you’ll gain ground there.
I didn’t know this when I signed up, but it’s true.
After not-working on vagina vérité for a few years, I was just ready to try something different. I’ve been a reader, and a fan of, Chris Guillebeau, author and originator of WDS, since 2007. I reserved my spot at WDS2018 to get clarity on how to reboot the project, and forgot about it.
A few weeks prior to the conference, attendees received an email from team WDS, inviting us to submit our remarkable stories for the chance to share them on stage. They characterized a remarkable story as:
- A time in which you needed to trust.
- A moment that altered the trajectory of your life.
- A quick lesson or life principle you think would help others.
- A way in which you were inspired or influenced by someone else, or something that happened.
- A story that is vulnerable and reflective.
- A request that you think the WDS community can help you with.
- A person you’d like to publicly thank.
By the second bullet point, I could hear myself saying “One day, I was meeting a friend for drinks, and before my butt hit the bar stool, she said, “Do you like the way your vagina looks?” I most certainly had a remarkable story to tell.
For as long as I can remember, I have been extremely uncomfortable speaking in public. If I notice the sound of my voice in the company of even three people, I want to stop it. Public happens very quickly for me. Speaking on a stage was miles from my wheelhouse.
But—I had signed up to attend WDS, specifically to get past the obstacles between me and giving the project its due. It began as a response to my friend, and I couldn’t let it end there. We need to see ourselves for ourselves. It needs to be shared, and shared widely.
This was an opportunity to work on that: I had to apply to tell my remarkable story in front of an audience.
I closed my eyes when I hit submit, and hoped they wouldn’t be interested in vaginas this year. Maybe they already had a vagina project on the docket.
But they didn’t. They chose my story.
They also provided help in the form of a storytelling coach, Marsha Shandur, and the new friends I made, Linda Ugelow and, especially, Rebecca Villareal, who helped me find the words.
This video of me on stage was shot at WDS. In it, I compress the ten-year experience of vagina vérité into a 2:38 min talk, including intro and outro.
Now, I have not seen the video end to end. I just can’t. I’m pretty sure I recited the script that you can see in my front pocket when the camera pulls back verbatim, but I am just too nervous about speaking in public to watch myself on stage, heart pounding nearly through my ribs, in front of 1,000 people.
When I got backstage after, I literally laid myself flat on the ground.
Still, it’s progress.
In a few weeks, the vagina portraits will be on exhibition in NYC. I hope to see you there. I totally plan to say something. I’ll probably still need to memorize it, and keep glancing at the ceiling to remember what comes next. At least now I know I can do it.
You’re invited to a photography exhibition of 110 vagina portraits, so we can see ourselves for ourselves.