I Went to a Poetry Open Mic Alone and This Is What Happened
Last week I did something completely out of my comfort zone:
I went to a poetry open mic all by myself and sang my poems in front of a group of twenty plus strangers.
And I want to tell you all about it, because I want to encourage you to do something that scares you.
I have always suffered from stage fright...
I'm the type of girl who has to face the wall to sing confidently in front of friends.
My stage fright doesn’t necessarily stem from a fear of messing up publicly, but rather from my fear of being judged. You know that fear of having all eyes on you at once? Hence why I stare into the faces of wall clocks instead.
This fear causes me to talk myself out of countless opportunities, never quite granting myself the freedom to act on the things I desire the most, because someone else might ridicule it.
And if I’m guilty of any crime, it is wanting people to like me.
- My fifth grade talent show? Never happened.
- High School talent shows? Talked myself out of those too.
- Joining the comedy committee in college? What if your ‘friends’ laughed at you? I thought.
But lately I have realized just how backwards and limiting this way of thinking is.
Your life isn’t meant to be lived for the sake of satisfying others, and it’s okay to be a bit selfish.
Does that mean you shouldn’t volunteer or donate to charity? Absolutely not.
Does that mean you should take risks and express yourself, not giving a damn what someone else might think of you? Absolutely YES!
I’ll be honest, I almost backed out of this opportunity too.
The idea sounded completely lovely in my head the two weeks leading up to the event, but three days before, I started to become anxious.
The day of, I tried to think up any excuse that would justify bailing including:
• It’s going to rain before you leave work, and you just happened to forget your umbrella.
• You don’t have enough time to eat beforehand.
• You forgot to wash the outfit you planned on wearing.
• Your throat is a bit sore, you can’t possibly sing without messing up.
• You are so tired from work, and have an early morning tomorrow…maybe next time.
I even tried to talk myself out of performing in the Uber on the way there, convincing myself to just be a spectator.
When I entered, I felt as though there was a sign on my forehead reading Doesn’t Belong Here.
I'm sure the look on my face was that of a deer in headlights. How does one feel out of their element at something that seems like it should be in their element? I wondered.
After sitting idle in a chair, using my phone as a crutch, the time soon came for me to put my name on the performer list.
My palms were sweating at this point, despite the fear-induced goosebumps along my arms.
I put my name halfway down the list, and spent the first half of the night’s performances anxiously waiting for my name to be called. I took nervous sips water of water every few minutes, looking like a girl with a red solo cup at her first high school party.
When my time came, I walked up to the center of the room—and I won’t lie, it was nerve wracking.
No matter how much I had tried to talk my heart beat into submission just minutes before, it took a nervous sprint, my voice shaking during the first several lines.
But halfway through my first piece, I regained my rhythm and went on to deliver two more pieces.
I was most scared of how people would react to my singing poetry. It was not the norm, and I tried to assure them at the beginning that they were still poems—that there would be no Kids Bop interpretation of Milk and Honey. But I realized that was a mistake too, and I shouldn't apologize for who I am and how I create.
To my (happy) surprise, the audience loved them. I got a large applause, some high fives on the way back to my seat, and a “Damn Belle, let’s give her another round of applause,” from the night’s host.
Now believe me, my intention in mentioning that is by no means to brag.
I will knock myself off of any pedestal someone tries to place me on.
What I want to do is...
show you the incredible things that can happen, when you can convince yourself to let go of fear and tackle an opportunity.
I could have decided not to try, in fear of my singing poetry not counting in the world of spoken word.
I could have come home from work, poured myself a nice glass of wine, and watched the new season of Queer Eye. Trust me when I say, that sounded 1,000 times more ideal than bearing my soul in front of strangers.
But if I had done that...I wouldn’t know that...
1. I can Survive performing in front of people.
2. I actually really enjoy it.
I learned two very important lessons from my open mic leap of faith...
1. When you take down some of the walls fear builds up around you, you lessen the gap between your true self and happiness.
2. When you distance yourself from the worry that stems from other’s opinions, you move closer to the things you value.
Or as I like to say,
You are moving closer to your final destination: a state of happiness.
And the night was more than a learning experience about myself...
I got to learn about the intimate details of other people’s lives!
Poetry is so magical in that way.
You can learn more about a stranger in a thirty second poem, than what you already know about some of your closest friends.
It has that innate power.
The crowd I encountered was unique in the best way...
I listened to a two minute poem about Kraft Singles from a pink haired woman named Victory.
I heard a poem by a former garbage truck driver about his sobriety achievements.
And I saw young people just like me, getting on stage to recite their poetry for the first time.
So wherever you are out there in this great big world, and whatever it is that you want to do but are afraid of doing.
Take it from me, When I say each little risk makes the bigger ones a little less scary. And it's those big risks that lead to the greatest rewards.
I plan on taking more risks like this in the future, and I hope you will join me.
Leave a comment below or message me a risk you’ve been wanting to take, and I’ll be your biggest cheerleader.