So, there I was, sitting in the audience enjoying the show at Open Mic Night at Western Oregon University on May 6, 2014. I watched as fellow students shared their musical talents and poetry. Then my name was called. I had an eight-part piece that I combined into a story and performed spoken word for the first time. As a senior who is graduating in just a few weeks, I put together my journey at WOU, the community college level, and my life before college into one coherent, motivating, and passionate piece.
This piece brought light to my truth as a non-traditional student at WOU and I’m grateful for having the opportunity to share my truth. In light of my entire college career, I can honestly say it was my experience at WOU that encouraged me to write these pieces. In winter 2014, I took a memoirs class. Writing my memoirs sparked an entire set of memories I had not only forgotten about, but also unknowingly suppressed. With the excitement to write my memoirs, and the encouragement from my support groups on campus, I took a personal path to recognize what I had forgotten from my past. It was quite a ride but, in the end, getting on stage and performing my truth was liberating.
I also think back to the public speaking class I took during my sophomore year and it’s because of that class that I was able to perform on the level to which I did. I didn’t have stage fright or anxiety. Now, I’m a bold woman regardless, but I still get anxious and I still have fear of people judging me. That butterfly feeling in the gut of my being was there, of course, but I tapped into that swarm of butterflies and used it as my fuel. The outcome was quite rewarding.
As a photographer, it was strange to hear the clicks of the cameras while I was on stage. Usually, that click of the camera is at my fingertip, not from someone else taking a picture of me, focused on my performance. Hearing the crowd snap their fingers, whisper “yeah,” and clap for me boosted my confidence. And, honestly, I needed it. I needed to face my fear. I needed to tap into my past and accept my history. I needed to get up and express my voice. I needed to share.
I share this experience with y’all because I encourage more people to write, express their thoughts, and share their art. If you’re not a writer, but you create something, share it. Don’t hide from your truth. Getting on stage and vocalizing my thoughts was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s also one of the best things I’ve ever done. I encourage more students, faculty, and staff to share their art with the community. Events like open mic night, slam poetry, and/or art shows should happen more often so everyone has the opportunity to express themselves.
The opportunity to share my spoken word on campus was a key moment in my life and I hope more people from the WOU community gets their opportunity to share their art too. Don’t be scared to speak up, ask questions, share your thoughts, and make a difference. One thing I’ve learned is that it’s important to listen to other people. One thing I’m teaching is that it’s important to listen to other people. We all have a voice and it’s time I start using mine for positivity, encouragement, and love.
By Jo Bruno