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Mandy Straight’s TEDxMileHigh Experience

So, I’m a TEDx speaker.

That still feels really weird to say (and type).

It has been three weeks since TEDxMileHigh: Ideas Unbridled. I was fortunate to be included as one of the speakers and had the exhilarating opportunity to unbridle my ideas and my heart all over a stage in front of thousands.



I had twelve days to prepare. Twelve days from final acceptance to presentation, to execute the biggest bucket list item to date that I can check off my list. It seems like the big achievement within this whole process would be the ability to write it, memorize it and share it with an auditorium full of people — or maybe the ability to do all that in two weeks. Those were big takeaways to be sure. But there’s something else that was bigger that is my big revelation from the TEDx experience that is in no way exclusive to being a speaker.

My big takeaway from speaking at TEDxMileHigh?

pet·ri·chor /ˈpeˌtrīkôr/: (n.) the smell of the earth after rain

I have long been obsessed with great words (just in case that wasn’t clear from watching my talk). I am fascinated by how they somehow convey our intangible thoughts and emotions to others, by how we gain deeper understanding into ourselves and the world around us simply through examining the way that we communicate our understanding of both. I have obsessed over this particular word for years and find more to love about it the longer I use it. It may seem unrelated at first, but go with me here:

Petri- : is from petra, meaning ‘stone’

-ichor : (eye-core) refers to the gold liquid believed to be the blood of the gods in ancient Greece

Here’s what I see in this: We each have a rock at our core that endures within us as we are thrashed through life. In no way am I saying that we are ‘cold and dead’ as can often be attributed to stone. I am referring to something deep within us that has undergone an immense amount of pressure in order for us to take on our current shape; something fundamental that has weathered cold, wind, rain and sun too. As we go through life we have known them all and because of them, the rock of our core is just as beautifully faceted.

Likewise, we each have ichor that is our lifeblood. While our literal blood feeds our cells and our organs, our ichor is the vehicle of our passion and our purpose in life. This figurative golden juice within feeds our souls, it inspires who we are and urges us to tenaciously pursue that which we love.

What I gained from being a part of TEDxMileHigh is not an appreciation of how amazing the ideas were — though they were. It was a realization that the reason TEDx is so compelling is that we all get to watch these speakers as they share their ichor. They are offering us a look at the golden fluid that runs through each of their veins and colors the beautiful stones at their core and our petrichor is richer for it. Isn’t it breathtaking? We not only get the opportunity to witness this lifeblood, we are given the chance to hear that we are not alone in our struggles; that someone else has fought as we do and there is hope and support for all of us. We come away feeling enriched, emboldened and excited.

I have to be honest, I’m not convinced it really happened. It is all such a blur in my mind that I am awaiting video proof just to be sure it wasn’t all in my head. TED is such an inspiration to me in my daily life that I am not sure I know how to approach the fact that I given the chance to offer up my petrichor to others through the same medium. The experience was a whirlwind; I am still reeling. I am honored by the opportunity, humbled by the compliments I have received and inspired by the petrichor of the organizers, the speakers and the attendees.

Thank you so much for sharing in my essence and for contributing yours. That magical golden exchange is what my TEDx experience looks like.

Words: Mandy Straight // Images: Chris Anthony

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