Why Am I Doing This To Myself: 2. The Poetry Slam, January 2018.

I can feel my breathing getting shallower and quicker. I’m nervous. I never get nervous. Six teachers, well five teachers and me – the only female – are sat on stage in front of maybe 200 students and staff… well maybe 100 but the lecture theatre seems full. No one comes with a banner for me like they do for Mr DJ Hanks to my right. No one chants my name loudly in support like they do for Mr Sargent the PE teacher. But I get silent smiles and silently mouthed “go miss!” – which comes with the territory of school counsellor. My heart warms. I’m supposed to be second up and my name isn’t called, DJ Hanks is up instead. My nerves worsen. He has TWO poems. One that is quite serious and the other, a brilliantly funny shout-out to all his amazing students. I’m cursing myself for thinking no-one would take this seriously.

What if I forget my lines? You’ve practised this loads and your poem is on the floor

What if my legs give way and I fall over? You’ll be fine, your legs are fine

Why did I write something so cynical? Cos you’re a woman and a counsellor – they will be expecting fluffy

Why can’t you ever write anything warm and positive?! Hahahahahaha

Ah no, they’re calling my name… Deep breaths, deep breaths, you’ll be great…

I walk up to the mic – I should’ve taken it off the stand and walked with it. But I left it there. I feel exposed. My poem is on the floor. I open my mouth…

What is this voice?! Where is the confident, angry voice I rehearsed with?! What is this overly emotional, pleading, sounds like she is going to cry voice?! And why do I feel like I am going to cry?? It’s okay, it’s okay. Don’t cry, don’t cry. Dramatic pause after each line. Deep breath, regain your composure. Look at friendly faces in the crowd! Ms Thacker is over there and is smiling and nodding. Focus!!

I end without tears and have never been so glad to sit back down in my life. The host thanks me for “a particularly emotional performance”. I chuckle. I vow to never do this again.

I come third.

Maybe I will.

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