I always try to write for myself. The first was a short story. I was 11 years old and did it spur of the moment. After that, I got the bug. I continued to write for the next six years. During that time, I didn’t feel like an artist. I kept my writing to myself. It was a secret that I didn’t like sharing. I was self-conscious about it, carefully shielding the notebook I would carry everywhere with me to write. The writing was just something you didn’t share. That changed my senior year of high school. That year, I found myself struggling to find electives to fill my class schedule. At that point, I had an idea that I wanted to go into technical writing and took things like a journalism class. But I decided to also take a creative writing as well just for the variety.
Up to this point, the only type of writing class I had taken was the state-mandated public school English classes. I was also in honors and AP English too, but writing still was one of those things I kept to myself. I didn’t know what to expect going into it. But to my surprise, it was one of the most chill and interesting classes I’ve ever taken. I adored my teacher. I felt more inspired than ever. I was getting past my anxiety about sharing my written work.
As I began to slowly get past this anxiety of sharing, my teacher announced an extra credit opportunity. At a local coffee house, every Wednesday night, there would be an open mic for people to come read their poetry and written works. I thought it couldn’t hurt. So, that night, I arrived three hours early. I claimed a table in the back near the exit in case I decided to exit early.
As the open mic got underway, I kept largely to myself. There were a lot of people I didn’t know or recognize. There were a lot of people reading amazing work that made me feel inferior. At the halfway point, there was a brief intermission. I could feel the tightness in my chest and the tingling in my fingers; tell-tale signs of an impending anxiety attack. I wanted to contribute. I wanted to share. I wanted to get past my fear. I finished the last of my coffee, and right as the open mic was about to get underway again, I wrote my name with the black dry erase marker. “Kelly P.”
I hurried back to my outpost at the back of the room to wait. I don’t remember much of it after that. I was nervous. I kept eyeing the exit. But then, I heard someone call me. “Kelly P. You’re up!” I grabbed my notebook at the time, a gray composition notebook held together by duct tape. My hands were shaking. I eyed the room briefly as I grabbed the mic. I couldn’t make eye contact. With a trembling voice, I introduced myself. “Uh, hi. My name is Kelly P. and I will be reading…uh,” I flipped to a random poem. I don’t recall saying the title. I just remember keeping my eyes downcast, focusing on my handwriting, and the mic shoved up against my mouth. I had been told I had a problem with public speaking and hopefully they might hear me.
I don’t remember the words. I tried to read them in one breath, avoiding eye contact the entire time so I wouldn’t be judged. As the last words left my mouth at the end of my breath, I finally looked. People clapped. I felt shocked and then surprised. No one was mocking me, telling me how bad of a writer I was. It was the opposite. I felt the anxiety leave me replaced with some euphoric high. I got a rush from performing my mic and sharing my writing for the first time. I felt good. I felt confident for the first time in my life about my writing. I still feel that euphoric high whenever I give a big presentation or after a big social engagement.
As I left the stage, I reclaimed my table in the back. I felt relief and lingered on the positive vibes as the open mic finished. This was only the first of many open mics throughout my senior year of high school. For the first time in my young life, I truly felt like a writer.