Yesterday, I stood on a stage and faced several massive fears.
- i participated in public speaking
- i shared a very personal story with a bunch of strangers
- i let other people judge me
All these fears were faced from the The Moth stage at LaughBoston in (you guessed it) Boston, MA.
What’s The Moth? It’s a “not-for-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling.” Every month, in cities around the country (and also in a few places around the world), the Moth picks a theme, picks a venue, and welcomes people in the door to participate in what they call a #storySLAM.
People come to these #storySLAMS two reasons: to tell a story, or to listen to them being told. People who want to tell a story must put their name in the hat the beginning of the night, and ten people are chosen from that hat over the course of the night. if you’re chosen, you go up on stage and you have five minutes to tell a true story that happened to you that’s related to the night’s theme.
Last night’s theme was: On a Dime. The instructions were pretty simple:
“Prepare a five-minute story about a sudden change. Overnight success or an out-of-the-blue Dear John letter. Tell us about the moment when everything shifted and where you went from there”
I secretly bought myself a ticket to the show. That was the first step: my declaration of my intent to attend. But then I had to develop a story that fit the theme. I decided on a recent one: my experience on the 6th (and 7th) nights of my meditation course. It was a night when everything changed for me, when I realized that my self hate was much more pervasive and deeply felt than I had ever imagined. It was the night that I started to see myself as truly worth it, truly good enough, and through that new lens, the world around me changed.
Why did I want to tell this story on a stage? Isn’t on my blog enough? I’m not sure why, really.
Maybe it’s because as I’ve listened to their podcast (and you should too) and have been totally blown away by the stories that people tell and the way they tell them. The power these people have to make me cry and laugh and feel astounds me. I want to be able to do that.
Maybe it’s also because I feel like I have something to say. it’s a totally narcissistic idea, of course, to think that what you have to say matters, but maybe i’m totally narcissistic, and maybe it does matter.
And maybe it’s because I wanted to face my fears. I have long been afraid of being judged, of public speaking and of bearing myself to others. On this blog, I’ve been able to slowly get over some of those fears. My meditation course also helped me shed some of my worry. My therapy sessions have also focused on reducing my anxiety.
So anyway, i wanted to. But I didn’t want anyone to know about it. I didn’t want anyone to talk me into it, or out of it. I couldn’t handle the pressure of their nervousness or excitement on my account. In secret, I wrote out an outline for the story, and I practiced it and listened to my practice rounds and rewrote and practiced and listened. In secret, I planned to put my name in the hat.
And then, at noon yesterday, i freaked. I decided my story was awful, dumb, contrite, total bullshit. When Joe woke up, i decided to tell him what my plan was and ask for his honest feedback.
Was my story dumb? Was it worth telling? Should i do it?
Tell the story, he said. It’s good. You can do it.
So, a few hours later, I found myself in a WAY bigger room with WAY more people than I expected and WAY fewer names in the hat. The odds of me being chosen to speak weren’t odds. it was definite. I freaked again. What was I possibly thinking going up on stage in front of these people? I imagined the audience not clapping when I was done. or, worse(?), clapping while muttering what a poor girl i was that I thought *that* was worth telling.
At that point, i went public: i posted on Facebook and Twitter what my plan was, and how afraid I was. Should I put my name in? I asked them. Friends came to the rescue. They talked me down from the ledge in the best way possible: using harry potter references.
so I signed up. because, why not, right? If i sucked, I sucked, and I could leave. And if i was awesome, then great.
I was picked first. Which figured.
I went up, and I stood there on the stage and I clasped my hands under my chin (where they stayed for the entire time) and i told my story. and people laughed at the right spots. and some people looked bored at certain points. and some people looked totally invested. All their eyes were on me, but i just stared into the lights (thank god for stage lights) and tried to remember what I’d practiced and tried to nail the ending.
And then it was over! people clapped and whooped and whistled and that felt amazing. when i sat back down at my seat, people smiled at me smiles that seemed really genuine and kind. The judges entered their scores: 8.9, 8.1 and 7.5. The scores made me feel weird (because who wants to be anything other than a 10?) but over the course of the night they turned out to be pretty average.
And after I was done, all throughout the night, people came up to me and told me they loved my story. that i did a good job. in the bathroom after the show, three women showered me with praises as we waited for stalls.
So…I did it. I paid money to tell a very personal story on a stage to a bunch of people I don’t know and might never see again. I bared myself to them. and all they had in exchange for me was love.