Blogmas Day 10: I am overwhelmed with gratitude

Hello, everyone! I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to report back that the reading went so well! I managed to say my piece without making an idiot of myself, and there were so many incredible people who showed up to support me. I am eternally grateful for everyone who was physically, emotionally, or spiritually with me last night; it means more than you can ever know. Whether you sat in the front row last night, brought me flowers, or just texted words of encouragement, you truly made my day and made me feel so loved. To put it simply, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. So overwhelmed, in fact, that as soon as the reading ended, I left the venue and immediately began crying on the short walk to my car. And like clockwork, my mom called me to hear how it went just when the waterworks started. Alarmed, she of course asked why I was crying.

"They're happy tears, Mom. I'm just so proud of myself and happy to be alive."

To backtrack, let me set the scene for you: I left my apartment at 6:30, so by the time I entered the venue it was 6:45 and not a minute earlier. I was nervous enough without arriving awkwardly early, attempting to make small-talk as I meticulously counted the pages of my essay over and over again, as if one had run away while I wasn't paying attention. With my iTunes on shuffle for the drive over, "Girl Almighty" by One Direction began to play through my speakers, with its upbeat tempo. It's never been one of my favorite songs by my boys in 1D, but I couldn't not listen given the occasion. The song is about some anonymous girl who's vibrant and unabashed, and honestly that was the persona I desperately needed to embody just then.

Let's have another toast to the Girl Almighty,
Let's pray we stay young, stay made of lightning.
Am I the only, only believer?
There's something happening here,
I hope you feel what I'm feeling too.

At stoplights I glanced down at my phone only to find a slurry of texts from loved ones, ranging from "Wish I could be there!"s to "On my way!"s. The support made me both excited and nervous; people I care so deeply about were taking time out of their day to lend me their ears, and I sure as Hell didn't want to fuck it up. Sorry for the language, mom.

When I parked, I walked up to the performance venue, a little place in downtown Harrisonburg called The Golden Pony. It's relatively new, but I'd previously never been, as its notorious for attracting hoards of hipsters and alternatives, which we all know I am certainly not. I mean, I just moments ago quoted One Direction. The building sits street level, with its bright and eye-catching window art. I tried to search for a telling photo of its exterior, but Google images and their Facebook page both proved somewhat unhelpful. You'll just have to go with me on this one.

I walked up to a group of my classmates having a smoke before the big event--taking the edge off, I guess. Politely declining their offer to hang out with them in the cancer circle, I ducked into the venue, where nearly everyone else in my class was hustled up to the bar buying themselves a drink, again, taking the edge off. Never before feeling so sadly twenty-years-old in my life, I grabbed some water and proceeded downstairs, where the performance would be held. For some structural context, the Pony is a restaurant and bar upstairs, with an open-air performance venue in the basement below. There was another bar, with a blue-haired bartender wiping down the counter. The venue owner--forever involved and clearly dedicated to his job--was arranging rows of metallic silver chairs as audience members began to file in. It was at that point that my professor had all of us huddle in a group. I was about ready to cry, vomit, or pee my pants. Maybe a combination of all three? But with no time for any of that, I found my seat toward the front, seeing as I'd be making my way to the stage just a few minutes later. In that time, so many of my favorite people filed in: my best friend, with flowers in tow; my roommate Abby, who graciously took time off of work to see me read; my friend Eppie, with whom I get coffee every single Tuesday. And then, as a decent sized crowd settled into their seats, it was time.

My professor, Erica Cavanagh--our MC for the evening and a truly amazing professor and mentor--introduced the reading by giving the audience a brief summary of our semester's courseload and the type of essays that might be read tonight. The majority of us read either personal narratives (which was my essay of choice) or lyric essays; the lyric was especially popular. She then introduced me, the first reader of the night, and I climbed up onstage ready to go. I was still shaking in my boots (actually, I was wearing patent black ballet flats, but you get the point), though I was feigning utter confidence. Y'know: "fake it until you make it."

What happened in the ten minutes that followed are a blur. Honestly, it was such a surreal experience, I think I kind of black out? Is that humanly possible? All I remember is the audience laughed at the right times and through the haze of the bright lights in my eyes I was able to make out the supportive expressions of my friends, classmates, and professors. And according to them, it went well. I didn't put my foot in my mouth, surprisingly! I guess I'll just have to take their word on that, for lack of a fully fledged memory. The piece I read is something I'm proud of, and maybe one day it's something I'll post here, but for now it remains too personal to push out into the never-ending wormholes of the internet.

During an intermission, I briefly reconnected with my poetry professor from last spring (whom I've spoken about on this blog before) who surprised me by coming to the event. I mean, her intention wasn't to surprise me necessarily; she came because myself and another student reading were in her introductory poetry class so she wanted to come out and support. Either way, I was very pleasantly surprised to see her. As she moved along to mingle with other students and colleagues, my friends began to filter out. It was getting late, and the fact that they took time out of their busy finals schedules to come is enough to warm my heart for at least the foreseeable future. I hugged them goodbye, taking their genuine compliments to heart and settled back into my seat to listen to the second half of the reading. The second half was just as entertaining as the first. At times hilarious, at times heartbreaking...either way enlightening and inspiring.

I was on Cloud 9 for the rest of the night. When my happy tears dried up, I treated myself to a peanut butter Oreo milkshake and blared old school Taylor Swift on my drive home. The same music I was listening to when I was in middle and high school, wondering if I would ever grow out of my perpetual bad mood and my feelings of inadequacy. As I pulled into my apartment complex, I was listening to "Fifteen," feeling tears threaten to make another appearance.

And when you're fifteen don't forget to look before you fall.
I've found time can heal most anything,
And you just might find who you're supposed to be.
I didn't know who I was supposed to be,
At fifteen.

More happy tears, because I'm just now starting to realize I'm doing what I'm supposed to do and I'm proud of who I am and the progress I've made. I'm happy I can share this experience with you. I'm so glad I get to document my happy thoughts, bottle them up and save them up for a rainy day. So for you, yes you, reading: thank you. You remind me that someone's listening to the things I have to say. It doesn't go unnoticed. I don't take it for granted. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I love you more than you could know.


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