Speakers share stories of vulnerability, connection at TEDx Breckenridge event | SummitDaily.com
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Speakers share stories of vulnerability, connection at TEDx Breckenridge event

Ashley Hughes gives a speech on connection at the TEDx Breckenridge event on Saturday, Oct. 3 at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge.
Photo by Elaine Collins

BRECKENRIDGE — When Ashley Hughes first arrived in Breckenridge, she found it difficult to connect to the others around her. 

“When I first moved to Breck I worked with a lot of people five to 10 years my junior, both in age and life experience,” Hughes said in her TEDx Breckenridge speech titled “Currencies for Connection.” 

Hughes went on to explain that lifestyles of her and her coworkers did not mix. 

“To give you an idea just how vastly different our lives were, these were people who could ski all day, party all night and functionally work the next morning,” she said. “I’m at a point in my life where I look at wine, I think about email and I now have a hangover. So we were unable to connect, and that’s okay … but I felt alone.” 

Hughes wasn’t able to truly connect with others until she moved home and dealt with her “internal currencies,” or the past, present and future versions of herself that impact everything she does. 

“My internal currency was now so strong, I was able to recognize the external currencies available to me,” she said. “Rather than talk about what I used to do professionally … I would talk about skiing or yoga or paddling or the roadbike I’m saving up for, but I did it in a way that still honored my internal currency.”

Hughes spoke along with 10 other presenters at the first TEDx Breckenridge event on Saturday, Oct. 3, at the Riverwalk Center. Because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event went virtual, allowing for people across the world to tune into the broadcast.

Although the theme of connection was chosen before the organizers of the first annual TEDx Breckenridge knew the novel coronavirus existed, it could not be more perfect.

Like Hughes, Ashlie Weisel found herself unsure of how to connect with others around her when she first arrived in Summit County. However, she reminded herself of a classmate in school named James, who she always made a point to enthusiastically greet in the morning. 

On her last day of high school James wrote Weisel a note. 

“‘Ashlie, I’d really like to thank you for your years of kindness that you extended to me,’” Weisel read of James’ note in her speech titled “The Art of Human Connection.” “‘I was going to commit suicide our sophomore year, but it was knowing that you would be there the next day to say ‘hello’ that was all that I needed to get through my hard times.’” 

Weisel said that James’ note taught her a lesson about connection. She later applied that lesson when she moved to Summit County and created the Mountain Mamas group and opened Sunny Side Up Studio in Frisco. 

“Kindness, love, acceptance, joy, happiness, whatever you carry with you becomes a ripple effect,” she said. “It touches every person that you touch in your life and it will travel through them wherever they end up going.”

Sean Hansen found human connection through the trauma of war. An Iraq veteran, Hansen spoke about his “connection with the enemy.” While serving, Hansen said he found a greater connection with an enemy he did not know than with his friends back home. 

“A deep sense of connection is not reserved only for those we know and like,” he said. “In contrast to the experience I had with my friend, I sensed a greater connection with the enemy in Iraq … the enemy and I understood what life and death were all about and people back home just couldn’t, or wouldn’t, understand.”

Hansen encouraged listeners to not just check-in, but be present, for the people in their lives. He shared a story of when he opened up about suicidal thoughts with one of his friends, who was also in the military. 

“He didn’t shy away, he dug in, hard,” he said. “My vulnerability and our ability to share the pain I was feeling are the reasons that I’m still here.”


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