Saturday, March 18, 2006

Performance Anxiety

It's 3am, and what you get at 3am is a ramble - in this case, a paranoid and overdramatic ramble (but one that is also a little tongue in cheek).

Some of you know that I've been playing at open mics for the last few weeks. This is a big deal. I have spent the last - well, my entire life, pretty much - not performing because I am so nervous about playing in front of people. So a couple of weeks ago, I suddenly stopped being as nervous and decided it was time to try singing in public. (It's actually not the singing part that makes me most nervous - it's the guitar-playing part.)

And, you know, it's been going ok. Except that tonight, I was awful. And that is hard for me to deal with, because 1) people who knew me were there, and so now I'm imagining what they may have thought/said on their way home in their cars, and 2) usually, even when I'm not happy with my performance, I don't think I am awful. So this was worse. I was actually upset about it enough that I almost went home, but I decided to suck it up and stick it out and I ended up hanging out listening and playing with some others and having a great time.

And I also decided to cut myself some slack. First, this is only my third open mic. I think I get to suck, sometimes. Def Leppard sucked when I saw them last fall (not as much as me, but still) and I paid $40 to see them. I sucked but I was free - nobody left feeling like they had wasted their money. And Def Leppard has had a lot more experience performing than I have.

Second, I got my ass up there and did it. Which is more than I've done in the past. So, again, I've earned the right to suck. And a lot of people who heard me suck did not get up and sing, either.

Third, this was actually good for me - I learned that I can suck and the world won't end. It could have been worse: no one booed, and some people said nice things, so no matter how I feel about it, it is possible that not everyone noticed that I sucked. Even though I managed to screw up every single song in some way or another, I still managed some good moments, and I still had a good time.

You who are reading this don't know that even the fact that I am writing publically about this and not hiding under the covers right now in humiliation is huge - a couple of years ago, I would have decided never to leave the house again. So I'm also proud of myself for learning to brush it off.

But the one thing that continues to make my performing difficult - and the thing I really struggled with tonight - is that I SHAKE. My voice shakes so that I can't control it, and my fingers both shake AND turn to wood so that I can barely play. I'm not sure what to do about that except to go for a quick jog right before I am on to run off the adrenalin. It wears off, but it seems that the way things go is that I shake, I suck, and then I recover later on. (So, if you're going to come hear me, come late in the evening.)

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