In 2006, I first met TED. We met online — I don’t remember exactly how — but even though our encounters were virtual, they were  just as thrilling and as passion-filled as any IRL relationship I had ever been in. TED respected my intellect, appealed to my curiosity, and knew exactly how to stimulate my mind and get my creative juices flowing. It was a very heady time.

Over the years, our relationship blossomed into something more meaningful. When TED birthed TEDx, I was there, enthusiastically joining my friends Javier, Kara, and Tim in adopting and raising a TEDx. Five years later, we’re proud to say we’ve raised TEDxHouston into a thriving hub of inspiration and exploration for the greater Houston community, and are supporting so many other Houstonians and neighbors with their own budding TEDx activities.

When I got the chance to meet TED in person, I jumped at it.

cat-jumps-onto-beanbag

In 2012, I joined Javier on the journey to Palm Springs and attended my first TEDActive. Full Spectrum. It was glorious. The first day, the first night, I couldn’t help but be moved to tears as I felt like I had finally met my tribe. From Anwar to Freddy to Shanna to Vico to Sarah to Chadburn and Mike, and on and on, I fell in love with almost every single person I met and got to know as the week went on. My only regret: I wish I had taken more pictures and video to remind myself of those moments by the fire pits, the karaoke with Imagineers, the computer telling me I looked like I was 12 years old, the opening night party, the personalities, and the colors. Oh, the colors.

That first trip turned me into a TEDActive junkie. That was home, and I wanted to experience it as much as possible and as often as possible, every day of my life. I shared stories of my experiences with more people, turned more friends and strangers on to “Ideas Worth Spreading,” and went to TEDActive 2013

…and TEDActive 2014

…and spent more time getting to know you fellow TEDActivists even better. (Yes, this is now an open letter to my TED+Active family.) You all amaze me with your enthusiasm and passion for all things TED, for better or worse. And when some of you trusted me enough to share what you loved, liked, and didn’t love/like about recent TEDActives, I took that to heart and thought about how I’d like to make it better. Because if there’s one thing about TEDActivists, it’s that we all believe in making something, anything, EVERYTHING, better. Especially if we have the opportunity and resources to. Which is why I’m writing this post.

Before I boarded the shuttle to the airport (and had such a delightful afternoon with Darlene!), I shared my own concerns about TEDActive and ideas for improvement with Kelly. We scheduled a call for the following week and explored them further. At the end of the call, she asked me “in an ideal world, how would you like to do this?” And I replied: “In an ideal world, I would work for TED.” And holy sh*t. My world just became ideal.

Through the magic that is Kelly and the powers that be, my love affair with TED has turned into an official engagement:

I’m now Creative Director for TEDActive!

(Squee!) My goal is to make the entire experience as inspiring, immersive, interactive, introspective, creative and celebratory as you all deserve for it to be. I want to provide enough structure that everyone feels safe and comfy enough to commune and share as much as you wish — we ARE coming home, after all — while offering enough guided sparks and creative freedom to make the experience your own. I’m honored with the opportunity and resources, and I’m overflowing with ideas and inspiration, on how we can achieve this.

Yes, “we.” You are part of my team. At least, I want you to be. I want you to be as proactive and/or as vocal as you wish to be — no pressure either way. But I’d love your feedback, ideas, constructive criticisms, offers to help, etc. You can either leave your thoughts publicly in the comments below, or email me at grace.rodriguez@ted.com. (OMG I loved writing that.) If you want to get involved with TEDActive in an even deeper, more meaningful way, please email me your thoughts along with how you envision the process, results and ongoing impact. We want TEDActive to effect community-wide impact beyond the conference, and we aim to sustain that impact throughout the entire year and beyond; and you are an essential part of that. We couldn’t do it without you, nor would we want to. You’re family, after all. 🙂

Eight years later, my relationship with TED is just as exciting, inspiring and invigorating as the first day we met. I’m confident that with this experience, it will only get better. And if I can help yours rock as well, please let me know. I’m all about spreading the love, too. <3 Now...time for some happy dancing!

Love & Light,
Grace