Did you ever have a youthful dream that ended up somehow ground down by the day to day of living? I guess everyone did. Maybe it wasn't that they were ground down, but more that they evolved with the rest of our lives and were transmuted into our dreams of retirement. But there was an awful lot of 9-5, or 5-9, or 3-11, or worrying about the next job in between, right?
In the office where I work, we're all gearing up for mysterious layoffs that the rumor mill says will spin out on Tuesday. We're all monitoring our corporate calendars to see if time has been blocked off without explanation. Everyone's in a little bit of a panic. Everyone but me.
My dream (feel free to laugh here) is to be a touring performance poet. Odds are good that you weren't even aware that there was such a thing, but a handful of people in the United States make their living by traveling the country with only the strength of their words and drawing out a particular emotional experience from the people who gather to see them.
There are hitches to this dream: I have terrible stage fright and I hate most of the 'poetry' that I write. Primarily I'm known for a type of political comedic monologue. It's something, right?
Months ago, I began recording an album. I have a home studio, so it's been a weekend-when-I-feel-like-it thing since the spring. It's called "Happy Rainbow Poems from the Unicorn Petting Zoo", which is a joke that poets instantly get. I think I have about 7 more hours of studio time to complete the process (I made that number up, but let's call it true) and I basically took the entire summer off from performing to, well, psyche myself up for the touring part.
I have a number of shows booked for the fall now, mostly at Poetry Slams and music festivals around the southeast, but I'm thinking of taking on Texas in February and maybe the midwest in April or May. It's quite an agenda for someone who's terrified of getting in front of people.
Yesterday I began my merch purchasing, buying stickers to sell for $1 a piece that read "I'm trying to enjoy this" (imagine seeing that on the bumper in front of you while you crawl home from work) and "Grappling with Bafflement". Interestingly, neither one of these are lines from any of my work; they're just lines from my head. I'm looking at the project holistically. If this is my one chance to go and play the artist, I'm going to play it from every angle.
Which brings me back to layoffs. I returned from my vacation at the National Poetry Slam a couple of weeks ago all happy and fulfilled, only to learn that the end of days was coming (maybe) for some of my colleagues. Or me. Who knows (some guy on the top floor, I guess). Pretty quickly, my concern melted. I've made good choices. I have this dream that claws at me in the night.
If I'm laid off, I'll made due. If I'm not, I'm still in a position to challenge myself and learn new things. Like how to enjoy the moments when all eyes are on me and my words are the ones that decide the mood of the room. I can do that. I can enjoy that. I can thrive in those moments, and give people something special to take home with them. Something that they can walk into their own offices the next morning and say to a colleague, "I saw the coolest thing last night...."
However it goes is how it goes. And however it goes, I'll be traveling and experiencing the joys and sorrows of life on the road. It's something, right?