I remember the sheer cold silence in the room as I stared into the darkness in front of me off that stage. It came after a hailstorm of cheers, an affection I didn’t think was possible. I spent a long time thinking about this moment, and when It came I was more shocked than ever before. It was like a fantasy, and I loved the moment. I scared into a crowd that cheered for me and sat there eager in silence to hear my voice. I was scared to death, wary that I’d mess up. Confused on my own words that came from my heart but I didn’t believe in them. However, something compelled me in that moment. And magic happened after that. To this day, I couldn’t repeat what was said on that stage. The words have long since dissolved from my psyche. And I refuse to return to the video of that poem. Possibly because I hate the sound of my voice. Possibly because, I like the idea of that poem being suspended in time, right where it was. It was my first time performing. Since then I’ve grown so much, inside and out. Especially when it comes to delivery, rhythm, and flow. However, that first performance I’ll never forget.
It was going to be part of the second annual hip hop showcase at SUNY Potsdam. I wanted to end my senior year with a bang and I had taken the reigns of the project after my partner graduated. I had tremendous help by some really good friends. But for some reason I felt an enormous amount of pressure rising in me. I wanted to put on a good show. The first one was successful, and the stress was mounting. I wanted to capitalize on the momentum we had from last year. Also, I was performing, and during rehearsals I was stinking up the place. I was going to do a joint performance with a friend. And She was spectacular. She had total control over the formation of her words and I couldn’t match her at all in my own mind. Me in my inferiority complex watched her rhetorical brilliance and I continuously failed to match the energy. I couldn’t match the words to my mouth, my presence was faltering and I just couldn’t get it together.
The worst part of it all was that the poem was a dedication of a friend I lost due to gun violence just recently. That’s where the most of the pressure was coming from. On top of performing well, I wanted to honor his name through my poetry. I felt like that was weighing me down a lot. Like, a lot a lot. I was grieving and sharing that pain with people. All along the way afraid in my own message. Everyone who saw it and heard it in practice loved the words, except for me. The fear was tingling down my spine and I would get up defeated because I couldn’t capture the ability to push this masterpiece out. And it was haunting me.
No matter the retrys, the scolding by my partner and my friends, or the encouragement. I couldn’t get it together. And I was wallowing under the pressure as the rehearsals dwindled in number and the days grew closer to the show.
That is until one day, I was sitting in my room with one of my best friends, and he read the poem to me. It was then when I heard the words out of my own perspective and listened to them come from another. Being a creator, we often despise the creations for a plethora of reasons. Since this was my first creation I was going to share, I was keen on making it perfect. Little did I know that’s not how it’s supposed to go. I realized then that perfection wasn’t the route I needed to take. No, I needed to be me. Be vulnerable and share my thoughts on the situation. From then on everything else seemed to come natural. My rehearsals went smoother and my confidence rose. I had finally understood how to perform and I didn’t look back.
I’m lying, I’m a creator and a perfectionist still. There’s a lot of my work I dislike because I dont’ think its perfect enough. However that is the curse of the creative mind. I refuse to let it control my work. There is always room for improvement, but there is something else about opening your soul for people to see the raw you they can relate to. That’s what happened the first time I performed. the day of the show, I felt the pressure still, but it was alleviated once I hit that stage.
The cheers soothed my anxiety. The world slowed down and the silence became calming. There was a rush that suddenly came from my feet to my brain and then the words flushed out of my mouth. I vomited pure rhetorical brilliance to a crowd of people as if I were possessed. There wasn’t a stutter, no shaking. Just pure concise control of diction in a compelling manner to deliver a message to people who understood the pain I was feeling. And It felt amazing. Looking back, It wasn’t my best performance. It’s more prose than poetry. However, It was more of the fact that I didn’t quiver when the moment called for me. I’ve done that so many times in my life, but this time was different.
My very first time performing poetry was a roller coaster ride. I was able to relinquish my sorrow and formulate it into a message that can make so many gravitate to it. If I could do it all over again I wouldn’t hesistate.