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This week, we have a guest blog from Vincent Klug, who attended this year’s TEDxRVA and wanted to share his experience.

I think it’s pretty universal to hunger for impact. Everyone wants to be (or at least reveres) great artists, inventors, and leaders. I’m no exception. I’m the musician who wants to write “Sgt. Peppers” and the novelist who wants to be Nabokov. These goals are overwhelming and they are obviously things the vast majority of people simply can’t or won’t achieve. At different times in my life, this dichotomy – combined with the loftiness of some of my goals – has both depressed me and encouraged me. However, starting off 2016, factors in my life had me nauseous with anxiety and stuck in an existential crisis.

On April 8th, I attended TEDxRVA, and some things started to click. From the first speaker to the last, everyone had an impact, but there were a few moments that really brought it all together for me. The first was a project by John Freyer called Free Ice Water. You can read more about it on his website but the core message is built around conversations, connections, some shared water, and a totem of the talk stored in a jar. That was the first piece of the puzzle. The second piece was when the curator of the event, Andy Stefanovich, said something to the effect of, “These aren’t extraordinary people these are just ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things.”

Multiple speakers focused on the power of community and engagement – from the story of a borrowed snow shovel, to a woman who put a table into her front yard that became a community center, to a chance encounter with some artists in a bar that led some people (myself included) to tear up. At some point, this all combined with everything I had been thinking about, and it became this idea. I knew I had to act. Ultimately, I realized that I just wanted to connect with people and become a better part of the roughly 60 square miles that make up Richmond. So I decided I would try to meet 365 different people over the next calendar year, and I started that same day when I met Brittany.

Brittany was working at the event and was nice enough to indulge me over a glass of free ice water. She sat down at the tiny table across from me, took off her glasses, and we started to talk.

I told her about how I became a writer and a musician. She told me about being forced to move as a child and how seeing most of her possessions essentially in a box by the curb taught her to be self-sufficient. It was certainly a real moment for me. One that was even captured (without me noticing) on camera. Before I left, I told her about this project, my plan. She told me to go with it, dropped her hair tie in a pale blue jar, and, well, here we are. Some fifty days, some fifty people later. Since then I’ve been keeping a journal of all these people that I have been meeting and I’m not quite sure what I’ll do with it, but right now I don’t think that’s important.

On the way out of the event, I ran into Andy. I shook his hand and told him I was inspired to do a project and that I hope to be on that stage someday. He said, “That should be the goal, shouldn’t it? Keep me posted on the project.”

Who knows? Maybe next year, just like some of the presenters and their collaborators, Brittany will get pulled on stage with me when I am giving my TED talk about the impact of meeting the wonderful people that are all around you. I can only hope and dream, but I can tell you this: It has certainly helped me, and I can only hope for those that I’ve met so far, they feel the same way. Regardless, if this art project doesn’t have any legs beyond a small journal, I don’t mind. It’s already been an experience that has been more than worth the trouble.

Check out Vincent’s website for more.