cherry red doc marten boots Are you brave enough to bare your soul Sunday at Edgewater Reading Series

I walked between the rows of fold up chairs to a microphone, placed under lavender lights. I began to feel the heat they radiated as my cheeks turned rosy and my palms began to sweat. I thought for sure my invitation was given for the sole purpose of publicizing the event.

In the midst of giving me the event’s details, Gabriella told me I had a 10 minute slot and she “couldn’t wait to hear what I was reading.”

I’m sorry, what? You want me to speak to a crowd of actual people? What would I read? I literally have zero content to contribute to this. Please, please, please just let me fade into the background.

After around 20 minutes of internal panic, I decided to give this a second thought.

WELL, I’M DOING THIS: For the past four years, I’ve been putting off this project I think I’m finally ready to share with (a very small portion) of the world. Maybe, just maybe, I could use this as an opportunity to gauge how well my work does with a crowd. If I don’t take the risk now, I may never have the chance to again.

Yes, I realize how backwards this rationale is: Your self worth should be based on how people like you.

But I promise, that’s not what I’m getting at. My point is that if this reading goes well, it may just give me the kick I need to really get this project off the ground. Or I’ll fail miserably. Either way, I’ll regret it if I don’t try.

To quote “A Bronx Tale,” the saddest thing in life is wasted talent.

On my way to the studio, I thought about turning around and running to my bed more times than I’d like to admit. I peered through the gate of the Hub to find a decent crowd forming in the studio area.

“Damn. People actually showed up,” I thought to myself as I walked closer. came and went, more and more chairs were being pulled from the closet to seat stragglers. It wasn’t stuffy, but the space was definitely filling up.

NOT JUST AN OPEN MIC: I’ve been to plenty of open mic style events in my 23 years of life but there was something interesting about this evening. No one in the crowd was on their phone. No one was recording. Everyone was present. Everyone . cared.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a crowd so attentive. They hung on every word spoken. After three or four performances, Gabriella said, “We have a reporter in the house.”

“Uh oh, that’s me,” I thought to myself. I started doing those “mindful breathing” exercises I was taught to do when I get nervous, but the only thing I was mindful of were the amount of eyes on me.

I broke my shoe gazing to say “Hello” to the crowd and was pleasantly surprised. I looked up to see a group of warm, welcoming faces. All the anxiety I felt in weeks past melted away. Even if it was for only a moment: I felt, almost, comfortable.

I started off by introducing myself and explained why I chose this particular passage to read tonight. My father, Ralph Priola, passed away in 2013 at the age of 53. I was 18.

Throughout my grieving process, I decided to start documenting my feelings and all the motions they provoked through written word. Now, five years later, I’m in the process of creating a memoir based on the experience of losing a parent as a teenager.

I decided to share a snippet of my writing for the very first time. My body felt like it was shaking throughout the entire reading, but not so much because I was nervous.

Five years of pain, sorrow and every emotion in between was coming out in front of a room of, more of less, strangers. I can’t even begin to describe how amazing it felt to finally have the work I’ve invested a large part of my heart in, out in the open.

I felt heard. I felt seen. And most importantly, I didn’t feel alone anymore. I held back tears as I took one last look at the crowd before returning to my seat.

“It’s over,” I said to myself with a sigh of relief. “You did it.”

HERE’S YOUR CHANCE TO SHARE: At the end of the day, it was less about being liked or disliked: It was about having the courage to bare your soul to a crowd of people. You are capable of much more than you think.
dr martens original Are you brave enough to bare your soul Sunday at Edgewater Reading Series