I Stepped Outside Of My Comfort Zone And It Was Wildly Thrilling

I Stepped Outside Of My Comfort Zone And It Was Wildly Thrilling

Recently, I decided to go a step further, get out of my comfort zone and read at an open mic.

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I am a poet at heart. Recently, I decided to get out of my comfort zone and read at an open mic. I have attended a few and each time it is as exciting as the first. It starts with picking out the best poem to read for that evening's events. I imagine taking experience and creating it in descriptive words that put the reader inside my world and see what I have experienced with rhythmic colorful verses.

As the adrenaline grows in me, I watch the clock eagerly, trying to calm my nerves and focus on the day, not on the night's event. Once I arrive, I find a place in the middle of the room, someplace that I can see everyone arriving. The stage lights are turned on and the microphone is plugged in, and the empty space is ready for its first victim. My adrenaline kicks up a notch. My heart starts beating faster and my palms begin to sweat. I look over the poem on the paper and begin to second guess my selection. The sign-up sheet is set out for everyone to add their name. The first spot is always reserved for a certain regular that has never missed a performance. Several others line up to put their name on the sheet. I never rush this process because I know many won't sign up for the second or third spot, and I it will be mine.

As the writers before me take their turn at the microphone, I watch the crowd and see if they are interested in what the writer is saying, or are they as nervous as I am? Not knowing who any of these people are or if they came to hear a story or poem from a close friend or maybe just need to be entertained in a way many have not thought would be entertaining makes me even more frightened and anxious. Finally, the writer before me has finished and the applause dies down.

The emcee of the open mic event says a few things about the last writer and makes a few comments about coming events for anyone interested in participating. Suddenly it is my turn and I am introduced. "Please welcome Barbara to the stage."

The small crowd claps and I meekly move to the stage and the lights glare into my eyes. I slowly edge closer to the microphone and press my palms to my pant legs to remove the perspiration before touching. For a moment my fight or flight instinct kicks in and I am overwhelmed with a surge of power.

I put on my best smile and introduce myself and the backstory of the poem I have picked out to read. My legs are shaking, and my heart is pounding all the way to my fingertips. I refuse to look out to see if anyone is looking at me. I can feel their eyes focused on me and I keep my eyes on the paper and begin reading. I start to read, and I get through the first few lines and freeze. Losing track of my rhythm and focusing more on the lights and sounds instead of my mission at hand. I apologize and start over. I take a deep breath look out into the audience and let the anticipation of the event disappear from my thoughts.

I begin again and it gets easier as the words take on a life of their own. My heartbeat slows, and even though my legs haven't completely stopped shaking, I endure because I must conquer this fear. I hold the paper up so I can see the crowd watching and listening as I continue. Realizing, I am coming to the end and the fear of no one applauding crosses my mind as I say the final words to my poem and cautiously smile out into the crowd.

Then it happens, the sweet sound of approval. It takes me to a new level of exhilaration. The endorphins have kicked in, I am overwhelmed with a powerful high. The knowledge of conquering my fear, and believing I have been accepted by my peers. As I sit back down and try to listen to the next writer, a few of the participants from the crowd come over to tell me they liked my poem. I thank them as I take deep breaths to bring myself back to reality and unwind before I go home.

The time up on the stage is probably no more than five minutes, but it feels like a lifetime and it flashes before my eyes and then it is over. Part of me wonders why I was so nervous and another part of me never wants to do it again. I need to keep going until it doesn't give me the thrill I am getting from it now. However, that means I will have to find the next place outside of my comfort zone to share what I write.

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17 Signs You Grew Up Irish

Irish and proud!
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With a name like Shannon Elizabeth Ryan many people right away sarcastically ask the question "you're not Irish are you?" I always laugh and jokingly say nope not at all. I'm extremely proud of my Irish heritage, but what does it mean to be Irish?

Here are 17 signs you grew up Irish:

1. You have a distinct Irish name: first or last

Shannon, Elizabeth, Michael, Patrick, Sean, James, Ryan, Riley, Mahony, Murphy. Extra points if your last name begins with O', Mac or Mc.

2. You have been called a "potato head" or towhead as a child

Shannon Ryan

"What a bunch or potato heads!" Meaning you were really Irish or really blonde or both.

3. You were raised Catholic

Shannon Ryan

Catholic school, mass every Sunday. Oh and you were most likely an alter server or in the choir and can say the mass forward and backwards.

4. You have a love for potatoes of any kind.

Also, you may have read this book about a potato as a child.

5. You've been told, "Oh, you're Irish, you can hold your drinks."

Giphy

I mean it's in your blood, right?

6. Funeral, wedding, birthday you really can't tell the difference

Wedding? Get the whiskey. Oh, you said funeral?

... get the whiskey.

7. You know old Irish Songs and sing along with every note

"The Streets of New York," "Black Velvet Band," "Wild Rover," "Molly Malone," "Galway Girl," "Danny Boy," tell me ma all songs I remember being singing along with as a kid.

8. Your favorite holiday is St. Patrick's Day and you go all out

A day to show the world that there are only two types of people in the world: those who are Irish and those that wish they were.

9. You own a Celtic cross, Claddagh ring or any Irish knot jewelry and wear it often

You were most likely given that Celtic cross when you were born and got one for your First Holy Communion. The Claddagh was given by someone who loves you and Irish knots you can never go wrong with.

10. Two words: "soda" and "bread"

Some don't know that the cross made on the top of bread is to keep the devil away and protect the house.

11. You have a HUGE family and the parties and reunions that go along with it are just as big

My family is enormous and this is only half of it and I still don't know everyone.

12. There is no such thing as tanning

Unless you ware one of the blessed ones who do tan I'm extremely jealous. For the rest of us, we have two options pale or red there is no in-between.

13. You may not have the cleanest mouth or quietest voice

But you would never dare say a bad word in front of someone older than you. As for an indoor voice, it's non-existent.

14. You can successfully pull off an “Irish Exit" and then have to explain to your friends the next day what exactly that is when they ask where you went

Basically means you leave the party without anyone knowing.

15. At one point in your life, you've said, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph" if something went wrong

I heard this a lot growing up and I catch myself saying it every now and again.

16. The only college football team you root for is Notre Dame

I mean is there any other, Let's Go Fighting Irish!

17. Lastly, you are extremely proud of your Irish heritage

We are Irish. We are taught to be strong, have faith in God and learn how to party and have fun. Erin Go Bragh!

Cover Image Credit: kingofwallpapers.com

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I Won't Forgive The Anti-Semitic Students Of Spain Park, Not Yet

Maybe it isn't time for an apology.

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I am Jewish. It is something I have never been afraid of and something I value as much in life as I do with my family and friends. Throughout my life, though I have witnessed hate of the Jewish people and jokes made about Jewish people.

In high school, I had to listen to jokes about Jews and the gas chambers and was asked because I was Jewish if I could do someone else's math homework.

To say I had to deal with anti-Semitism in the South does not come close to describing what I had to go through. As time went by the jokes stopped and I thought I would not have to deal with instances of prejudice or bigotry but I was wrong. Growing up as one of the only Jewish people in my friend group and in high school it made me consider myself strong and ready for college but in my freshman year I had to go through other jokes about my religion and even in sophomore year had to witness someone I thought was my friend make a joke about my religion because "he thought it was funny."

I let the instances of anti-Semitism serve as times when I could prove people wrong I learned to forgive and forget.

But I had to witness other acts of hate towards Judaism while in college. From swastikas on a fraternity house, a synagogue shooting, the BDS movement and more hate speech, the hate towards Jews have seemed to grow and I do not understand why. I get hurt each time I hear of an instance but it has not allowed me to view my Judaism any differently. However, there was an occurrence that has affected me in a different way.

It happened in my home state and it has not sat well with me.

On Monday a video surfaced of multiple high school students making anti-Semitic and anti-Black comments. The video featured a guy turning around the camera multiple times to show he was laughing and thought it was funny while others made comments about concentration camps, what would happen if Jews ruled the world and asking what the world would be like without the Holocaust. The students were from Spain Park in Birmingham and have gathered quite a reputation online.

To say I am filled with anger, disappointment, and embarrassment is an understatement.

This is my home state and these students are not only disrespecting the Jewish and Black people in the state of Alabama but throughout the US and possibly even in the world. I am hurt by this instance but I am not ready to forgive these students just yet.

After the video was leaked online some of the students sent messages to the person who uploaded the video apologizing. That I took as a mature gesture until I read the apology from the girl in the video. The apology asked if the user could remove the video because it would ruin her life and reputation. It was later found out that the female student is the daughter of the manager of the Toyota dealership in Hoover after the manager posted an apology.

Any remorse I had going for these students was now gone.

They were not sorry. They were sorry that they got caught and were facing consequences. They gave the apology that your parents made you say when you did not want to apologize. They did not care about who they had harmed or what they had said, they cared because they had to face consequences and they know that this mistake would follow them for the rest of their life.

I'm at a loss for words.

I don't know how to feel. I know someone will tell me I am overreacting but how am I supposed to approach this? What they said was wrong and there is no proper way to express frustration for it. I know people get offended by certain things but some things are not meant to be a joke. So I hope what you said was worth it and was fun to say because it will follow you for the rest of your life. Some lessons are best-learned overtime and it looks like you will have a chance to reflect on these events.

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