One what is still considered to be the worst day of my life, I read an original poem out loud to a group of people for the first time.
It wasn’t the worst day of my life because I had to read an original poem out loud to a group of people for the first time. Actually, that’s what ended up making The Worst Day not so bad.
It was the night of the Boston Marathon bombings. That, on top of a life-changing phone call (unrelated to Boston, but still devastating) and more bad news about a classmate, froze me. I stood in the middle of the library all numb and chilled and feeling that way I feel when my brain cuts off all access to reality for an undisclosed amount of time.
Everything was falling apart. My world collapsed around me to the point where time just stopped. So when I say it was the worst day of my life, it’s not because I was a college junior double-major type A overloaded crybaby Snowflake plagued by fast-approaching finals and summer internship orientations and boy drama. I was quite literally about to lose everything – as far as I knew, in that moment – just as the universe decided to remind me just how screwed up the world was.
Yet I still had to walk across the first floor of the library to stand in front of a few dozen people and read a poem I wrote about pancakes.
I’m not going to lie to you – it was a good poem. I wrote it because my fiction and poetry class, required for my creative writing minor, forced me to. I started writing song lyrics – basically poems – when I was 10. Writing a poem was a no-brainer. Writing a good one was hard. I worked hard because I am incapable of doing anything other than Overachieving. Being chronically ill with Imposter Syndrome, I don’t usually admit it when I’ve written something good. This was possibly the one and only exception. I knew it was good.
So when it was my turn, I stood and walked up to the front of the room – still numb, still cold, still hollow and shaken – and switched my brain to Performance Mode. I like Performance Mode. I spent 11 years singing under hot bright lights without ever passing out. I am a big trembling ball of Anxiety until I flip that switch. And then I am the part of me I like. I am confident.
I read that poem as I had a thousand times in front of the bathroom mirror I shared with two other 20-somethings – reciting the lines as if everything was fine. Everything was good. Not for the narrator in the poem, but that was the point. It was a Dark and Twisty poem – it was a Dark and Twisty time in my life. I read that last line and I said thank you and people clapped.
And on my way back to my chair I heard someone whisper, “That was so good,” and for a few more seconds I forgot about Boston and that phone call and my friend with a Darker and Twisty-er life than mine.
It was the worst day of my life, but I got to escape it. Being One With My Art even for only about 90 seconds was enough to get me through it. I remember nothing else about the rest of that day. I’m sure I dragged myself back to my apartment and got sad and called my mom. But I got to share something I created with people who actually listened to my words. There’s a bright spot on my memory of that day because of a Dark and Twisty pancake themed poem that at least two people thought was good.
On the worst days of your life, perform. Create something and release it into the world. Not so you never have to face the Bad Things, but so you have something warm and fuzzy to remember when your mind flashes back to that day. All the things that went wrong will still be there. But that one good thing – that once chance to share the best part of you – will be there, too.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.