Full transcript of British film-maker Patrick Ney’s TEDx Talk: The Day Before You Die – Why doing what really matters is so important at TEDxKazimierz conference.
Patrick Ney – British film-maker
What would you think about the day before you die? If you could look into the future and predict with absolute certainty how you’d feel about all of the life that you led, what would you do differently today?
Three years ago, I had my answer to that question answered in a brutal and a painful way. And it’s that story that I want to share today.
And I hope that, through my story, I’ll be able to help some or all of you answer that question before the day comes when you need to ask it of yourself.
My name is Patrick Ney. I grew up in the UK and I moved to Poland in 2010, to be with my then girlfriend Joanna. That relationship didn’t work out, but as we slowly fell out of love with each other, I fell in love with Poland.
“Why Poland?” It’s a question that everybody, especially Polish people, always asks.
The truth is I always felt that I didn’t choose Poland — Poland chose me. Something about this country, which has fought for freedom and against oppression and injustice for hundreds of years, just inspired me.
Something about the Polish people, who, in less than a quarter of a century, have rebuilt a crippled economy into one of the world’s biggest economies inspired me.
And from the moment that I set foot on Polish soil for the first time in 2007, I always had this feeling somewhere that I was going to be a little part of Poland’s future. You know, being an immigrant is tough.
When you come to a new country, you don’t speak the language, you haven’t got a job, you don’t have any friends, you’ve got no money, it’s a real challenge. And you find out who you really are, because you only can rely on yourself. And that’s why immigrants work so hard.
It’s simple: they have no choice.
So, living in Poland, I felt this deep need to communicate my story. And I started a blog, first of all in English, about my life in Poland, and then I started to blog in Polish, mainly as a way of testing my written Polish skills, which are still a bit ropy.
But luckily, we’re not checking that today.
And one day, on the 11th of November, 2014, I sat down to write a blog in Polish about Poland. I didn’t know what I was going to write. And instead of a blog, a poem just came out of me. I didn’t plan to write it. I know that I wrote it, but I can’t say that it was entirely written by me.
What is Poland?
Tradition, history, unity.
Respect for the elderly.
Hospitable, finagling, complaining, making things happen.
Pushing in line, registered residence, baking bread.
Where we celebrate, commemorate, argue, gossip.
Where we remember.”
And that poem, I then recorded a year later and put it up on Facebook and YouTube. I mean, in the space of about two weeks, that film had about a million views. And I had people writing to me from Poland and across the diaspora, telling me that it made them laugh, and then, later on, it made them cry.
And I had thousands of people telling me that it was amazing, that I was amazing! And that felt really, really good.
For the first time in a long time, I felt like, “Hey, maybe it wasn’t a stupid decision to come to this country. Maybe it makes sense.”
A few weeks later, I recorded this film about divisions in Polish society, asking the question, “Why is it that we are so divided as a nation?” And that film got 55 million views on Facebook and YouTube, and again, thousands of people writing to me, saying it was something that had really touched them.
So at that point in my life, I realized, you know, I’m pretty good at this. It’s nice, getting this feeling when people write to me. It’s amazing, being able to touch that many people’s lives, even if only for a moment. And maybe this is my purpose and my passion.
However, when you’re a video content creator — does anyone here create video content? Yeah, so you know and you know and you know that when you produce a video, you’re only really as good as your last video. And if it sucks, you kind of sit there thinking, “Damn! I’ve got to do another one.” And the likes go away, the comments go away, the shares go away and you feel a little bit empty inside and you’ve always got the hunger to do more. True? Am I right?
Yeah, I’m seeing nodding heads. The problem is that you end up doing anything basically just to keep the show going. And at a certain point in my video career, I started doing content like this… (Music, animal noises) It’s recently come to my attention that Polish animal noises are a bit strange… (Pig oinking) I own that pig, by the way. It’s called Percy.
I actually quite like that video. It got 60,000 views on Facebook by the way. So if you guys are looking for inspiration, you can go with something like that. But it’s not something I’m necessarily going to be very proud of.