It is over. And I don’t know how to feel. I woke up today and remembered that I am, in fact, not a rock star. At least not in the musical sense. I am wearing my Sex Pistol’s Chucks again today to feel… something. Maybe a little of my “rock and roll for a day” feeling will stay with me. Just a little longer. There is something about wearing a Carrie Underwood dress and Joan Jett shoes that made me feel so rock and roll. SO rock and roll. I know I’m mixing genres, but hanging out in The Shelter and reading your work on stage at St. Andrew’s Hall with eleven other kick ass women will do that.
Reading for Listen to Your Mother Metro Detroit was definitely one of the greatest experiences of my life. As a writer, I determined that 2016 was going to be MY year. I am going to step out of my comfort zone. As my friend Emily says, we were brave, and being brave is something of a theme for this year. At least in my case.
Before Listen to Your Mother, I distinctly remember auditioning for something exactly one time in my life, and I choked. Choked huge. Like a chicken bone lodged sideways in my throat kind of huge.
I was in high school, and I wanted to be a drum major in the marching band. I was in line, waiting to audition in front of my peers. I watched my tall, beautiful friend Sarah fly through her audition. She nailed it, and I clapped and praised her. A few of my other friends did it and were spot.on.amazing. Then it was my turn.
I didn’t do it.
My hands shook like I was drenched in ice water. I couldn’t breathe. I was apple red from embarrassment. I shook my head and walked to my seat in the flute section. “Never doing that again.” I thought.
Then, I became a teacher.
I speak in front of people every. single. day. Every day! All day. Multiple times a day.
It’s not the same, but still, I stand in front of a class and speak. Yet, I’m not intimidated because I am in charge. I am the authority. The students come into the room knowing that I am the boss. I am the Boss. Play me a Springsteen song, because that’s the level. I’m there to teach them, and there’s relatively no risk when it’s me teaching process and facts and writing that is expository. I share snippets of my life, and I tell the stupid things that I get myself into on an almost daily basis (i.e. “coffee meet shirt”, “dog poop meet face”, yeah that happened once, and other campus funnies). But I don’t share my own work.
It’s not the right place. They’re there to learn about composition and rhetoric, and about how everything is persuasion. Everything is an argument. We incorporate research and it’s a lower risk to talk about ideas because they can be conceptualized.
So when I auditioned for LTYM in February, it was the first time I had auditioned in fourteen years. Job interviews are not the same. Not even close. I am good at those. It’s me, an interviewer, and a desk (usually), or a phone. I might not be good at writing about myself, but I can tell you all about why I am an ideal job candidate.
I read most of my work in workshops only. I read it to my best friends. I email it to them. I read it to my husband. I read it to some of my family members (i.e. my mom and dad) because some of them, well, they just don’t “get” me anyway, so why add fuel to the “weird/writer girl/deargodscreamingliberal/somewhat black sheep (maybe a nice shade of gray)” fire?
Then, I met, The Angelas. I walked into my audition, in my skirt and boots, ready for anything. They were beyond kind. They let me get comfortable with myself and my story, and then I read. And when I got choked up, it was okay. After I read, they took a few minutes and just chatted with me. They told me more about the show, gave me some chocolate, and said that they would be in touch. I walked out feeling proud. It didn’t matter (but of course it did) if I made it into the show, I had auditioned. I took a trip outside of my comfort zone.
Two weeks later, I got the e-mail telling me that I was IN. And so was my friend in brave. Emily was in too.
I felt so humbled at the first table read. Meeting many, but not all, of the other writers was almost like walking into a cloud. I was just a little dazed. “How am I a part of this?” I asked myself more than once that night. “How, just how, did I get chosen? These stories are incredible!”
I am not a mother. I have a mother, and she’s a one of a kind, off the charts kind of fabulous. I have one grandmother on my dad’s side, and she’s the only one I have ever had. Now that I’m married, I have a mother-in-law, and I inherited two grandmothers from my husband as well. Sadly, we lost one over a year ago.
Four out of my five skulkettes (my best friends) have children. And I love my friends’ children with all of the intensity of an aunt, or their best friend too. One day, when I have children, mine will have older friends to look after them, teach them the ropes, and show them how to avoid the wrath of mom. Because I will have learned all the tricks from all of the mothers.
I am surrounded by mothers.
Yet I am not one, and I was in a show called Listen to Your Mother. I read about my great grandmother and how her photograph inspires me to be the very best version of myself.
None of the other women judged me because I am not a mother.
Quite the opposite. I felt welcomed into a community not of mothers, although many of the writers are mothers, but I was welcomed into a community of women. Women with goals and dreams so much like my own.
We write. We have unique ambitions. We live creative lives.
And yesterday, at the sound check, my nerves kicked in. I looked out and thought “oh dear Jesus, what did you get yourself into here woman?”
But then, we went back into The Green Room in The Shelter (how many people can say that? For real..) and had time to chat and finish helping each other get ready.
My nerves dissipated little by little.
Then we took group photos together, laughed, and reassured each other that we were there to have fun! We were reading our work to people that wanted to hear it! They were there to hear US!
And as I walked in behind Traci and Jenny, I felt proud. Proud to be a part of such a talented cast of women and writers.
We read our work and our audience loved us. I mean, they loved us.
We all had a group of people there to see us as individuals, but what was truly amazing were the compliments I got from complete strangers after the show.
I hope I had something intelligent to say to them. I hope my reply was not an Elmer Fudd stammer and a eyed stare and grin. If you spoke to me, and I didn’t sound human, I am truly sorry. Please e-mail me, I can be coherent now.
So while today I have my regular jeans, a regular shirt, and my Sex Pistols Chuck’s on, I feel like a “normal” Melissa, I am so not normal anymore. I have a Kit Keller/Dottie Hinson type dialogue replaying in my mind (and if you’ve never seen A League of Their Own, do it, do it now). I hear Kit saying “but can’t you be part of something special, just this once?!”
And I was. I was a part of something special that took me out of my comfort zone and into a brand new place. And the eleven other women that were with me were just as special, and now that I know them, I can’t imagine not knowing them.
A League of Their Own ends with one of my favorite Carole King songs. “Now and Forever.”
So, instead of not feeling like Carrie Underwood/Joan Jett, I will feel like me. Only, I am the writer me that read my work for the first time at St. Andrew’s Hall on May 1, 2016. That was my first reading! Hell, I am going to have to keep that up!
And to my new friends, I leave you with Carole King:
We had a moment, just one moment That will last beyond a dream, beyond a lifetime We are the lucky ones Some people never get to do all we got to do Now and forever, I will always think of you.
“Now and Forever.” Lyrics Mode. 02 May 2016. Web.