Most of you know I have been working at an international school as the creative writing teacher and the librarian. Although it’s been pretty much a perfect fit for me, so much about this job has caused me to stretch in my abilities. I do not consider myself a performer (those of you who remember me from middle and high school are laughing now, because you think of me as a drama queen) but in this job I have had to revert back to some long dormant skills of performing and entertaining.
I have not enjoyed it.
To be clear, it is only *that* part of the job that I haven’t enjoyed. I’ve loved the rest, but having to perform and entertain makes me insecure and it makes me realize how much I rely on external affirmation. And it’s sort of kinda a terrible thing to feel like you’re relying on others’ approval. And yet, I want to do a good job, so it’s a catch-22.
This past Friday, for our Children’s Day celebration at school, I had to dress up as a character (cowgirl for the younger set, spooky witch for the older set) and tell stories for 15 minutes to each group. I was terrified. It is one thing to hold a book and sit in a circle and tell a story to children. It is entirely another to perform those stories for them. I barely ate anything at lunch because I was afraid I’d throw up.
Thankfully, it went very well, though I’m not sure I’ll feel any better the next time I have to do it. (I’m still hoping there won’t be a next time!)
I spent some time this morning trying to put what I felt into poetry, my favorite way of reflecting:
I told stories the other day
to children sitting patiently on blue
carpet, waiting to be entertained, wanting
me to mesmerize them. God, what pressure, I
thought and wished it were all over with –
the storytelling, not life in general, though at that moment
I wasn’t feeling picky.
I spoke of ghosts and ghouls,
cowboys, robbers and chickens, hoping the
children would laugh their wise little belly
laughs and their eyes would shine effortless.
God, I thought, I MUST be good, for children
are not easily lied to, their wide-eyed
innocence runs deep with doubt.
The crinkles in their noses say, Prove
yourself to me. Make me believe your silly
And so I spoke my silly little words, telling
tall tales as if they were truth, magicking
my own doubts into belief, trickstering
insecurity through bravado. And it worked.
The children laughed until it was all over with –
at the stories thankfully, not at me, though at that moment
I wasn’t feeling picky.
— Kristy Dempsey (2010, all rights reserved)