Home » The Spectacular Self-Medicating Veteran: Kate Nezelek at TEDxYouth@RVA (Transcript)

The Spectacular Self-Medicating Veteran: Kate Nezelek at TEDxYouth@RVA (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Kate Nezelek’s TEDx Talk: The Spectacular Self-Medicating Veteran at TEDxYouth@RVA conference.


This poem is called “The Spectacular Self-Medicating Veteran”, and it goes like this.

I know you never wanted this. I know you are setting fire to the walls. There are ashes in your bed. There are cinders in your lungs and not everyone knows how breathing can be a superpower. Who knew we could feel so much? Who knew that this life could turn out to be something neither of us really wanted? You know the world never sees the call. You know they’ll never hear you fighting your pulse against the pillow, but the dreams you’ll have will be nothing short of masterpieces in the dark.

No one will see them until you turn on the light so go ahead, drown out the world with your headphones in. It’s OK to collapse. The effort of existence weighs too heavy inside our lungs sometimes, but don’t forget to breathe a little deeper, friend. And there used to be a child playing your heart like a trumpet. An orchestra of adolescence performing symphonies beneath your ribcage.

But you fashioned your spine into a levy and drank until your smile dripped with water. You fallen prophet, You spectacular self-medicating veteran, You glass chandelier. I know. I know. It feels like you are drowning.

But trust me, God knows how hard you are working to stay afloat. You forget God created the ocean. You forget there is such a big difference between bent and broken. It is OK to be the only one inside your own head. It is OK to hide the locks inside the walls.

It is OK to bury your clocks until you can’t hear the ticking. It is OK to smash every mirror in a 10-mile radius as long as you can still see the light shining from your insides. Your body is a tremendous temple. Fill it with nothing but vermillion and scarlet. The flesh and blood you worship has to be your own.

Pray to the crosses in your life lines. Kneel to the beating of your own stubborn heart. Keep your chest as open and full as a Sunday pew. Find the pages of salvation in the firing of your brain. There is nothing more important than faith in yourself.

And you know, I don’t understand why every time I pass a dead animal on the side of the road. I shudder. Maybe it is their ghost passing through my bones. But I know that I am so scared that one day, I’ll have to wake up and feel your ghost in my bones. So please, please, lay it down, friend. You can hand me your drive through paranoia.

You can trust me to carry every aimless drive we take. But I will never be anywhere but the passenger seat. I’ll never be the one with my foot on the brake. So this, this is your highway.

Thank you.

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