Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Blogmas Day 8: I was there, I remember it all too well

Good evening, everyone! Tonight's blog post is coming at you as a precursor to a daunting mountain of studying and revision. 'Tis the season to be stressed out, right? But that's not what I wanted to talk about tonight--this blog is a way to distract from my workload. Tonight I wanted to talk about a reading I have tomorrow night and how I'm so. freaking. nervous.

In honor of the semester ending, my professor for my advanced creative nonfiction writing class (which is easily my favorite and most productive course) put together a reading at a local performance venue for all her students. There's thirteen of us total, and we're spending tomorrow night reading some of our work in front of a crowd of friends, professors, and strangers. As of now, the Facebook event says that 50-ish people will be in attendance, but those numbers are very rarely accurate. Regardless of the size of the audience, the fact remains that I'll be hit with a spotlight and share one of my essays on a stage that is normally reserved for legitimate performers (poets, musicians, improv troupes, etc.) And out of all thirteen readers, my professor decided that I'm going first. No pressure or anything!!!

Honestly, I don't know why I'm so freaked out; talking about myself and having a captive audience that has no choice but listen to me are two of my favorite things. I think it's the subject matter that I'll be sharing that's so scary. It's daunting enough to share anything I've written, whether that's a term paper, a short story, or a personal narrative. But to make matters worse, I'm reading a piece entitled "Of Boys and Cars," which is about exactly what you'd think. I'm name-dropping boys from my past with vivid detail that makes it pretty easy to point fingers and identify exactly who I'm talking about. I don't think I've been unfair in my depictions by any means, but talking about other people who have no say in the matter makes me a feel a little bit ruthless nonetheless. In the creative nonfiction discipline, we talk a lot about the ways in which we portray others; this is a conversation I'm really interested in and have participated in many times. But no matter how much I objectively come to conclusions about the ethics of nonfiction, I still get irrationally guilty every time I write about another person. Even if I'm spewing compliments or telling nothing but the truth, I can't help but feel anxious about penning someone else's name. When I think about this reading tomorrow night, the same questions keep resurfacing:

"What if someone knows who I'm talking about?" 

"What if word gets back to so-and-so that I wrote about him?"

"Should I be ashamed by this?" 

"Will reading this essay about boys I once knew make me seem like a psycho?"

Today while I was going through the motions of that internal monologue, I was absentmindedly listening to my iPhone on shuffle while riding the bus home. Then, as if by divine intervention, one of my all-time favorite songs came up, which helped to alleviate a lot of my concerns: "All Too Well" by Taylor Swift. What really hit me were the repeated lyrics "I was there. I remember it all too well." She's telling the truth and she's being forthright about her stance in the situation. You can call her names and sling shit at her all you want, but you can't deny that she was an active player in her own life, and she was affected by her circumstances. To clearly and concisely say "this happened to me; you can say whatever you want about it, but I'm being honest and I'm telling my story" is kind of badass. It's only made more commendable toward the end of the song, in which she addresses her subject: "you were there, you remember it all." Not only is she telling her story, but she's reminding the guy who did her wrong that he played a big role in the situation, too. 

Some of you might be scoffing and thinking to yourself that it's no surprise Taylor Swift is the artist I look to for inspiration in regards to talking about boys. And I mean, that's kind of fair. But I mean that as a good thing. Listening to "All Too Well," followed by a lot of Taylor's other work, made me realize how brave it is to say exactly how you're feeling, especially as a woman. Swift has been under fire for quite literally years (the worst period being 2011-2013) about her "serial dating" and the notion that she'll write a song about any guy she meets. And not only is that untrue and unfair, but it trivializes her work as an artist. To be frank about your feelings and to claim ownership over your past is actually something extraordinary. It's something we can all learn from, maybe. At least for me, it's a notion that's pushing me to be unabashed tomorrow night on stage.

So, to readdress those questions with all that in mind...

"What if someone knows who I'm talking about?" 
Well, if that happens, then you know you did a good job of painting a clear image with your words.

"What if word gets back to so-and-so that I wrote about him?"
It might make him uncomfortable, but that happens. You didn't lie and you didn't say anything mean by any stretch.

"Should I be ashamed by this?" 
Absolutely not. If anything you should be really proud and impressed with yourself.

"Will reading this essay about boys I once knew make me seem like a psycho?"
Maybe...but that's a risk I'm willing to take.

Alright everyone! Wish me luck tomorrow; send good thoughts my way at 7 PM. Until then enjoy this motivational playlist by fearless female artists that I've put together and will be listening to on repeat between now and then.

1) All Too Well by Taylor Swift (duh)
2) Send My Love (To Your New Lover) by Adele
3) Here by Alessia Cara
4) Not Ready to Make Nice by The Dixie Chicks
5) Confident by Demi Lovato
6) Strange Love by Halsey
7) Mama's Broken Heart by Miranda Lambert

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