Here is the full transcript of Jade Hameister’s TEDx Talk: My Journey to the North Pole and Beyond at TEDxMelbourne conference.
Jade Hameister – Teen adventurer
What if young women around the world were encouraged to be more rather than less? What if the focus shifted from how we appear to the possibilities of what we can do? As a young woman, I live in a world where I’m constantly bombarded with messages to be less, to eat less, to wear less, to be skinnier, to shrink my ambitions to fit in, to wait for my Prince Charming to come and save me, or to avoid activities that are for boys because I’m not strong enough or as tough. These messages fuel my fears and insecurities.
I am then left wondering all the time whether I’m good enough or whether I should just play it safe so I don’t end up making myself look silly. But imagine if all the young women in a particular country took one step forward in terms of the level of belief in their own possibilities. How much brighter would the future of that country be?
Now imagine if all the young women on this planet took that same step forward in their thinking as to what is possible for themselves, how much brighter would the future of our world be for everyone? That’s adventurous thinking. And by the way, it is so much more fun to try and be more rather than less.
In April this year, at the age of 14, I became the youngest person – male, or female – in history to have skied to the North Pole from anywhere outside the Last Degree. [Thank you] It was also the longest journey to the Pole by any woman on the planet in the last two years.
I dragged a sled that was as heavy as me, over a distance of a 150 kilometers as measured in a straight line from the Pole, on skis, in minus 30 degree temperatures. A hundred and fifty Ks might not sound too bad, until you understand the environment up there on the Arctic Ocean. We had to never get our way around or over compression zones where sea ice has collided to create ice rubble, and sometimes, this ice rubble can become walls of ice meters high.
We also had to find out our way around open water leads, where the sea ice’s split. Where we couldn’t, we had to build a bridge with our sleds, or someone would swim across in an immersion suit, while the rest of us were pulled across on a raft made from our sleds.
We were traveling on floating sea ice, so the ocean currents kept drifting us off-course, and we were often hearing the sea ice crack beneath us and wondering whether we would fall through into the freezing ocean below.
We also crossed polar bear tracks, and would stay awake at night listening for them, not that we could sleep well anyway, as it is 24-hour daylight up there this time of year. And I’m not a skier either. I only learned how to ski the year before, on a three-day trip to New Zealand. There’s not much snow where I live so I trained virtually every day for over a year beforehand, including by dragging tires around, which was pretty close to the real thing.
So, as you can imagine, the going was slow and hard. Aside from a few blisters, I lost the feeling in the tips of my fingers, which eventually came back after all the skin had died and peeled off. And the worst part of all, I got frostnip on my upper thigh and my bum from having to expose myself to the freezing cold and wind every time I went to the toilet. I loved it. It was the best experience of my life so far, and I fell in love with this beautiful yet fragile part of our planet.
And as much as I couldn’t wait to get home and see my family and friends, I was really sad to leave. Next April, my plan is to ski 540 kilometers across Greenland at age 15, and then, at the end of next year, ski 1,170 kilometers from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole, and by then, I’ll be 16. If I can get there, aside from a few minor records, I’ll be the youngest person to ski to both Poles and to complete the Polar Hat Trick.
So, what have I learned in my brief life so far that might be worth sharing? I have learned that all those messages I received daily to be less are wrong. I have learned that by expanding my dreams it has been impossible to think about shrinking.
Instead of focusing on how we look, let’s focus on what our bodies and our minds can do and discover the incredible possibilities that we are capable of and can contribute to this world. There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your physique, but the problem is when people sacrifice their capability or their health for the sake of fitting into some visual standard shaped by other people. Let’s make it about what you do not how you look.
If you think about it, the funny thing about many popular fitness social media accounts is that they post pictures of themselves standing in front of a mirror doing nothing. That’s not inspiring. That’s just trying to make the rest of us all feel bad. I think it’s much more inspiring to see photos and videos of people actually doing something. Thank you.
So how do we change things? How do we shift our focus? For me, when I see other women go forward despite fear, I learn what is possible. There are some amazing examples of young women in history choosing to be more.
But just as amazing to me are the girls who manage to work part-time while studying to support their families; girls who stand up for what they believe in; girls who get up in the dark each morning, to train, to be the best at the sport they love; girls who stay up late studying hard to make the most of their education; any girl who refuses to buy into the messaging to be less.
So if you are my parent, my relative, my teacher, or my coach, then I’m talking to you. Don’t be overprotective of me just because I’m a girl. Encourage me to take risks in chasing dreams that are important to me not to you.
The sisterhood – let’s celebrate the achievements of our girlfriends. Don’t cut them down! I’ve been amazed at the support I have received from my friends. But most important of all, we must start with ourselves. We are our own worst enemies. We need to get out of our own way and stop caring so much about what other people think. The truth is everybody else is worried about what everybody else thinks about them.
We need to focus on what we want for ourselves in line with our own personal values not those of our parents, or our friends, or of the school we attend. Don’t do it for others, do it for you. To expand what we believe is possible, we must have courage. We must be prepared and willing to fail. Don’t wait until you think you can do something perfectly, just get started.
I had really only being skiing once in my life before, and then I tried to ski to the North Pole, which is pretty funny when I stop and think about it. I also tried peeing standing up using a pee funnel in minus 20 degrees and I failed miserably. I spent the rest of the day skiing in pants that were covered in my own frozen pee. Courage is not the absence of fear but the willingness to take action despite the presence of fear or self-doubt. Without bravery, our lives remain small.
So let’s all commit to take one step forward in our thinking and our expectations as to what is possible for young women to achieve. Let’s constantly check ourselves that we are focusing on what we can do not how we appear. All those small steps will soon add up, and we will collectively expand what is possible for young women and as a result, for the future of our world.