Months after signing up to do so, the storytelling event that I was participating in finally arrived. And I was scared shitless.
Except in small workshops, the only time I’ve read or performed anything I’ve written was my senior thesis in college. But that audience was considerably smaller than the one I was about to read to and fully stocked with people I know (which I found out last week is oddly more comforting to me than staring down a group of strangers).
The day of the event was a pretty calm one. I was feeling positive, but continued to revise my piece anyway, wanting to bring in the best product possible. Eventually though, I felt confident in what I had, so I pressed save and printed the piece. Almost as if on cue, my chest tightened up and I thought, “What the hell am I doing?!”
I called my best friend in Canada and left her a message stating such. I began pacing around my apartment, trying to remind myself why I was subjecting myself to this anxiety. My husband got home soon after and I stood by the door with my coat on, hopping from one foot to the other as he changed clothes and checked his email. I’m sure I was a bit short with him as he took his time getting ready, but I couldn’t help it; I was afraid I might chicken out.
I felt unbelievably better once we actually got to the bar where the event takes place. I walked in and immediately saw a good friend of mine sitting near the bar with a beer. My twitchy nerves calmed even more as friends started to arrive and as I conversed with my fellow storytellers and found out that they were just as nervous as me. Eventually the night began and I settled in to hear the other pieces.
Going fourth was equally a relief and incredibly difficult. For one thing I could see the others get up there and not pass out, which gave me confidence that I would not blackout the minute I faced the audience. But I was also to the point where I just wanted to get it over with. I had my husband on one side of me and a close friend on the other, and at multiple times during the other readings I felt them grasp my hands that were bouncing up and down and my fidgeting legs. Finally, it was my turn.
I took a deep breath and walked up to the stand. I closed my eyes for a second, trying to feel my feet on the floor, and then dug into the piece.
After speaking the first line, I felt at home, as though getting up in front of an audience is exactly what I should have done that evening. I started to have fun with the piece, my hands and arms being all Italiany and getting in on the action. I began commenting on some sections that were utterly ridiculous, making pointed eye contact with those who already knew the story. I looked out into the audience multiple times and saw that people were with me, not glazing over in boredom. I ended the piece and did a little dance as I went back to my seat, pleased that I made it through and feeling exhilarated.
I would share the piece here, but it is a little incriminating to someone close to me. While that person gave me permission to share it at the event, putting it out into the web-o-sphere and having some bitter journalist find it one day when this person is running for public office is not something they signed up for or something I want on my conscience.
But be on the lookout for more storytelling risks. Now that it’s over, I’m hungry for more.