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.