The Open Mic

By Brandon Stettenbenz 07/03/17

Releasing all of that anxiety and publicly admitting my struggles with the party life was incredibly relaxing. Today I walk around with my head held high. I'm a f*****g poet.

A microphone
I spit it out man, so much emotion, so much pain inside me.

With the inevitable peaks and valleys of life, I once again had to hit rock bottom. Another failed relationship, unemployed, being lied to, and feeling like I have no friends got to me. I spoke to my therapist and told her everything. I gave her the details about my girlfriend cheating on me, how I didn't feel like I had any friends, how maybe I should just move out of town, I felt defeated. Except this time I didn't want to be defeated, I didn't want to admit that I was depressed, I wanted to cry but I felt that would let the depression be victorious. My mind drifted to drinking many times, but I thought, what is the point, my problems will still be here tomorrow and nothing will be solved. I also know that alcohol triggers my depression, and not putting it in my system allowed the beast to be tamed. Lastly, I didn't want to drink because of my ex-girlfriend, I didn't want a liar and cheater to get the best of me and my convictions.

I rode my bike home, somewhat sad. I cooked some food and realized in the kitchen that my mind was craving to go to that dark place. It was begging for me. The dark side of my brain was telling me it's okay to drink, go get wasted, smoke weed, do drugs. I realized that is naturally where my brain wants to drift. It wanted a pity party but I cancelled the party, I never even wrote the invitation. During my therapy session, she asked me if I ever went to the poetry slam to share my poems. I never went, I never thought I would get the courage to do it. Then she said something that got my attention. She said, "I'm sure some people there would really be interested in what you have to say." I never thought about reciting my poetry from that perspective before. Instead of thinking about myself and my anxiety and my feelings, I thought about the people in attendance. Maybe I could connect to them, and make them think about life differently.

I got to the cafe an hour early, I wanted to get settled in and warm up to the place and the idea. I did some school homework, and then signups started. I told a lady sitting next to me that I was thinking of doing the open mic but that I'm really nervous. She told me to just do it. So I signed up, there were ten slots open for poets and I signed up as the tenth poet to perform. I figured I could wait it out, see how I feel, and if I decide to leave it would be late and nobody would notice. One by one, the poets went up. My poems were raw, gritty, in your face. I knew that my words would actually be heard and I could strike a nerve.

Time moved really fast when I was waiting to perform on stage. I sat and watched for a while, went outside and watched the rain, met some new people, and then went back inside. I crouched in a corner waiting for my name to be called. I thought about all the musicians who wait in the hall before their big gig, how even the greatest musicians around get nervous, how my nerves were just like theirs. My name was called, and I walked on the stage.

When I was on stage, the only thing I could see were the bright lights in my face, a microphone, the wooden floor, and my poetry in my hand written on a piece of paper. 1, 2, 3, time to do it. I spit it out, man. So much emotion, so much pain inside me, so much anxiety, released onto a verbal canvas. The crowd was giving me approval after different lines, which made me realize they were into it. I was getting into a rhythm. My first poem was about how we have more of a relationship with our smartphones than we do with our girlfriends or boyfriends. Then, my second poem, the one that was hard to say out loud to a group of strangers. It was a sobriety poem, all about the drugs, late nights, one night stands, friendships, all of my torture, verbalized and spoken. Then boom, it was over. I smiled, said "Thank you," and walked off the stage to huge applause.

The open mic I participated in was a competition with prize money. I didn't really care about winning anything—just getting on stage was the only prize that I wanted.

The five random strangers in the crowd put a number on my art and rated it from 1 to 10. Turns out I scored the second highest score of the night! I couldn't believe it, it was one of the greatest feelings of my life. After all these years of writing poetry, I finally felt like I accomplished something. I won $10 and pinned it on my wall. The MC said that I'm a professional poet now because I had been paid for my poems, which I thought was funny. He asked me if I had any words for the crowd. I was speechless, I just said, "Thank you." Ironic that I can put so much depth and honesty into my poems, but just being a candid person accepting a prize was so hard to do after that. I walked off the stage and strangers were giving me high fives.

I couldn't believe it. I did it, and I did it sober. Afterwards I walked around outside and realized that I had finally grown up a little bit. I didn't need alcohol to go up on stage, I didn't need to celebrate afterwards with a beer. The high I had been looking for all along was at the poetry slam. As the night progressed, I finally was able to cry. I had tears of joy in my eyes, just incredibly happy. I woke up last night and couldn't believe what had happened.

Releasing all of that anxiety and publicly admitting my struggles with the party life was incredibly relaxing. Today I walk around with my head held high. I'm a fucking poet, I don't have to doubt who I am anymore. I thought about my lack of friends, and today I had three separate conversations with people and introduced myself. I felt like I was so confident in who I am that I could finally be more outgoing. I finally feel accepted as a sober person and how rich I am in the terms of my life.

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