Yes, it may be a Nike slogan and a Shia LaBeouf video & meme, but the phrase ‘Just do it.’ is actually a pretty great message. It’s a simple way of encompassing lots of other messages like ‘Face your fears.’ and ‘Don’t give up.’ and ‘Stop waiting to be ready.’
Two nights ago, my friend couldn’t make it so I went alone to an open mic poetry evening in Liverpool. I don’t think it comes as any surprise that I love poetry – I upload poems regularly on this blog, but it’s much easier to post a poem online than it is to read one out in front of a crowd, at least for me. A few months ago, I uploaded a blog post called, ‘Something To Say About Self-Doubt,’ and it touched on my not having performed a self-written poem to an audience since I was a child.
The first half of the night went by and I hadn’t signed up to read anything. I was just watching other people, lapping up the atmosphere and the spoken word. I’m always particularly impressed by the young poets; their poems tend to be the most personal and well-crafted. But, as I was about to experience, it takes a lot of courage for anyone to be so vulnerable in front of those they don’t really know, even if it is in a light, informal setting. The logical side of me knew no one was going to judge me, but when you’re up there, it still feels like you’re putting yourself and your work on the line.
But oddly, I wanted to be up there. I remember sitting through the first half and all I could think about was how disappointed in myself I’d be if I didn’t go for it. This was an opportunity I had to take, for my own sake.
The last poet of the first half finished and there was a 10 minute break. Without stopping to think, I immediately walked to the front and signed myself up for a slot during the second half. There was no going back now. I had signed my fate (although my anxiety made me feel like I’d signed my death warrant). Needless to say, within an hour I was called up, introduced as a ‘first timer’ and therefore given a long, reassuring clap.
First things first, I readjusted the mic, informing the audience that I was ‘only 5ft 1’. Then, after a deep breath or two, I performed one of my favourite poems (also one of my most personal), ‘A Simplistic Poem About Depression.’ And although my voice was trembling the entire time and I didn’t look up once from the pieces of paper I used as a safety blanket, it went really well. As I was speaking, the room was so quiet I could have heard a pin drop, and after the last line, the audience woke into a loud applause. I even got a few ‘woos’; one person told me that my poem touched them, that they could relate to it. It was a comment which meant a lot to me; the whole experience seemed to reaffirm something.
The funny thing is that now I just want to do it again. Writing poetry is so cathartic, and it turns out that performing it is both cathartic and extremely rewarding. It’s a feeling of acceptance, I guess. Plus, it wasn’t even that big a deal! I’d blown the terror of the situation out of proportion in my head; I know that next time I perform, I’ll face it with much more confidence.
So I reckon what I’m trying to get at here is to go for whatever you want to go for. Don’t get in your own way. Or, as they say, just do it.