The day that I started my storytelling class.
I’m just home from my first session of Speakeasy D.C. storytelling class, and to be honest, even though I technically tell stories for a living, I was a bit nervous about going tonight. I don’t typically spend seven minutes on stage exposing myself to an audience (no, not like that).
Mind you, I have performed before: my illustrious ballet career began with me crawling out of a laundry basket at age two as a “Cabbage Patch Kitten,” and capped off with a turn as a “child at the party” in a production of the Nutcracker. But those were hardly speaking parts. Then there was baton twirling, another topic altogether (believe me), but part of the reason why I still wonder about being on stage.
You see, I, like everyone else in the sixth grade, signed up for the sixth grade play in Middle School. But at the time, I was a National Champion Baton Twirler (see, I told you it was a longer story) and while I probably didn’t brag about it on my “play resume” the play director noticed. So before I could audition, I was pulled out of line and told I was going to be in the Talent Show instead. I wasn’t interested in being in the Talent Show, but the play director/Talent scout wasn’t having it, and handed me a broom stick so I could demonstrate my skills. Let it be noted that whatever skills you may have acquired don’t apply when you’re twirling a broomstick, particularly one with a splintered end that I’m fairly sure could have impaled someone. So in short, I sucked, and he didn’t seem to care that I sucked, which made me think that his interest in Talent wasn’t all that authentic, not to mention the fact that I didn’t feel like choreographing a routine, and the last thing I felt like doing at age 12 was putting on a leotard and throwing my baton around on stage, alone, where everyone could watch me if I dropped it (there a constant terror of dropping when you’re a baton champion, I was still novice enough not to have overcome it). So began and ended my chance of being the next …. [insert your favorite actresses name here].
So yes, there’s been a gnawing need for me to prove myself somehow, to make sure that I didn’t miss my calling. And there’s the other part, the part of me that’s always feeling like I’m losing my memories. I’m still mildly obsessed with the NPR piece by Michelle Trudeau I heard a few years ago about the woman who remembered every single day of her life. Here’s an excerpt:
A.J.’s memories cascade constantly, automatically, one memory tumbling over the next. Even while carrying on a conversation. It’s exhausting, she says.
A.J.: It would be as if every day I walked around filming my life and then put a videotape on the shelf. So when you say to me, March 1st, 1981, it is as if I would pull that day out and put it in and watch it. It’s just like a running movie. It never stops.
TRUDEAU: So I pick a date, out of the blue. What happened on April 13th, 1987?
A.J.: Um…well I can tell you that it was on a Monday. I had conjunctivitis. Pink Eye. And I was home for Passover.
I’ve always felt bad if I had a day that just…was. Yes, having that kind of memory may be overwhelmingly nuanced, and who really wants to vividly remember Pink Eye? But there’s something more there. It’s not a Carpe Diem/ Live Life to the Fullest/ Do One Thing Everyday that Scares You idea that’s there to inspire you to have a richer existence. It’s the fact that the stories we choose to tell–and we all know the ones that we’re good at telling–leave so much of the rest of your life out.
So I’m doing a little experiment. For the next five weeks or so, while I’m taking this class, I’m going to document each day, A.J.-style and see where it leads me. Maybe the story will be what happened that day, maybe it will spring forth a memory that I’ve not had in a while. What I’m hoping for is for more than all the mindless status updates and 140 character tidbits. It’s a chance to dig around in this skull and seek what’s lurking there.