A few months ago I started to watch TED talks at work to help break up the monotony of music I had become bored with. So instead of my background noise being random beats and lyrics, it became rhetoric by scientists and authors, adventurers’ sharing their journeys, and soon: slam poets.
My favorite talks began to be ones done by Rives and Sarah Kay. Their words resonated with me and I found myself replaying this talk over and over again, just to watch Sarah Kay’s initial poem she begins her talk with If I Should Have a Daughter. One day I found myself actually watching the entire talk over again. Since you’re probably not obsessed with spoken word and probably not going to watch the entire talk, here’s a synopsis: Sarah Kay began doing poetry at a young age and found a world of encouraging poets who helped her to find a voice from a young age. She then started her own program helping teens to do the same through their own writing.
And I found myself thinking: I wish I could do that.
And then I found myself thinking: Why can’t I do that?
And then I decided to do it. Be a slam poet that is.
When I decided this was something I wanted to do I began devouring anything and everything slam poetry. Hours flew by filled with videos from topics ranging from thighs to drug dealer’s daughters. Poems filled with passion, intelligence, conviction and people literally baring their souls for anyone to listen to.
And then I found myself thinking: I’m never going to be good at this.
It’s a discouraging thought, yes. But it was also the first time in a very long time that I had found something that I wanted to do – but wasn’t good at initially. I felt like my writing was sub-par, immature, and trite. Nothing I seemed to write lived up to anything I was watching. But I found myself still trying, still pushing, and still believing that if I worked hard – this could eventually be something I was good at.
Then I started going out to open mic/slam poetry events in Fort Worth (thanks to a very wonderful friend who gratefully brought me with him) and saw the range of poets that exist outside the realm of Youtube views. Real people, even realer stories, and the same supportive community that Sarah Kay had found.
So I began talking to people in the community and asking advice. Everyone just told me to keep writing, to keep trying, and to finally just bite the bullet and perform sooner rather than later. But I found myself still scared to even tell people this was something I was attempting to do and the idea of being onstage again terrified me.
Side note: I did theater for almost 8 years. I have performed in poetry events such as this growing up, but always with the words of others. The catch is that I never felt I was good enough because I never advanced in competitions. I always felt inadequate or never quite good enough compared to other performers (see: reasons why I didn’t major in theater) so I had a stigma in my mind that this was something I had already proven wasn’t a good fit for me. Despite my internal negativity, I kept telling myself how much I had changed since high school, how much more confident I am in myself now, and how this sense of self (and an overly determined self) would be the key to actually succeeding.
So…I did it.
After finally writing a poem that I felt accurately reflected me for my first piece, I did spoken word at an open mic. I’ve performed it twice now and I am in love (albeit still terrified). It’s something I think about daily and it’s a creative and challenging outlet I find myself enjoying more and more every day. The people in this community are incredible and inspiring in themselves and just being able to try to become a part of this is exhilarating. My friends and family have been nothing but supportive throughout the process and without their ears to listen and their own words of encouragement ringing in my ears – I never would have had the balls to do it.
While yes I’m writing this as a reflection on my own personal process, I also want to just tell you that YES, YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU SET YOUR MIND TO. It can be small, big, scary, exciting, uncomfortable, stupid, silly, daring, or whatever you find yourself yearning to do. Just bite the bullet and believe that you CAN. I may not ever be an ‘amazing’ slam poet, but I will always feel amazing knowing this was something I set my mind to and accomplished, despite being intimidated and feeling inadequate.
And if you’re curious how it went….