Many, many moons ago -- around the year 2000, I'd guess -- I was heavily involved in volunteer work for an organization that promoted women in the arts. I was attending/working their annual event, the National Women's Music Festival, which featured an open mic for poetry and the chance to be around art all week.
Participating in the open mic had potential for greatness. In addition to getting a chance to perform work in front of a new audience in the afternoon, the winner would move on to a round robin performance that evening and perform again with other open mic finalists. The winner of the round robin got to perform on day stage on the last day of the festival.
Potentially long story short, I won.
I had never been much of a performer in my life. I auditioned to be in a play in high school, but didn't know squat about acting and flubbed my way through the reading. I thought the drama geeks were weird and the theatre kids in college were irritating. The closest I got to performing, aside from putting on skits for my parents with my brother, was watching Fame on TV when I was a kid.
I say all of that so you understand I didn't know much about cues. I managed to walk onto the day stage while the emcee was still introducing me, but somehow it worked out. I was onstage at most 15 seconds before I should've been, but it meant I got to stand at the microphone, awash in applause.
It was thunderous. And it was for me.
The lights were blinding and I'm sure I was at least a little nervous, but I really only remember reading my poem -- something I'd written the day before about a woman I was crushing on -- and stepping back to receive more applause.
I made it to the wings before I burst into hysterical tears.
The emcee eyed me oddly and asked, in a none-too-kind way, if I was okay. Her tone seemed to imply I'm going to have to cancel the show and find you a damn doctor. I nodded, unable to convey that I was actually crying happy tears.
A few years later while attending Michfest, I had a similar experience. Another open mic, another poem, more applause, and, like clockwork, tears.
Even though I am out of practice with performing and I devote more energy to worry than art, I know there is truth in those tears.
I know where I belong.