Last night was a success of sorts. I spoke in public (25 people) about my art and did really well. I wasn’t nervous. I pretty much read my speech, but was able to do it slowly, looking up at my audience much of the time and I think I appeared happy and relaxed. This is a total victory for me. I was able to get my thoughts about how my art came about and what it means to me. I got many complements that I will take to heart and use to build up my confidence.
I did have help.
This was one of our exercises, part of our graduation from the EDGE program developed by Artist Trust. The extra help may not have been fair, but I wanted to present well and after last Saturday’s practice run with my classmates, I felt it was the only way. During last week’s practice I had a total meltdown in front of my eight fellow students who I had been with for six Saturdays. After only one sentence my voice quavered, I stopped took a deep breath, but couldn’t get it together. I finally foraged on and got out some more sentences before bursting into tears. I stopped to collect myself again and again, and forged on. My classmates tried to be helpful; the old “find the friendly face and talk to it.” People who can get up in front of a crowd don’t understand there are no friendly faces; there is nothing but a black hole out there with an evil force, its total tunnel vision without the vision. Every nerve in your body is on fire and all you want to jump out of your skin and beyond. Your brain has shut down so long ago the only thought is “how -- why?” I did finish reading my speech, eyes never wavering off the page, tears streaming down my face, and finally being able to run to my chair.
This had to be uncomfortable to watch – at least I hope so (or else these people are sadistic). All I could think was - I had a tiny kernel of confidence before the practice session and now I had less than none. How would I get through the official presentation? For the rest of the class, the drive home and throughout the night, I would continually burst into tears at the very thought of the experience. Then the light bulb came on in my head – I have drugs! For years I have had know anxiety issues. I have pills for fear of flying, this is the same thing, they just smooth things out. You’re not drugged (sleepy, dulled) just calm, the nerve ends aren’t buzzing like high tension wires on crack.
It totally worked, I almost had fun, and I could see how some people like to be up in front with all the attention. How nice that must be, I’m envious. I’d rather speak without the “help” and I’ll work on it, but what was most important for me was to be able to say what I had to say as well as I could.