H. Rick Goff
Open Mic Night
The crowd slowly grew as the time for the first act approached. The vibe was nervous confidence as local artists prepared for their turn behind the mic. The booming voice and contagious personality of the MC got the crowd ready for the talents of the young rappers, poets, comedians, and musicians. I was only there as an observer, but I had this unexplained nervous energy in my stomach.
I volunteered to work at the open mic event as part of an exciting two-week long series of events called Dreamweek. The events of Dreamweek consisted of symposiums, panel discussions, debates, film screenings and concerts designed to foster the free exchange of ideas on universal issues affecting our society. The open mic night was a perfect fit for Dreamweek. It provided a no holds barred opportunity for the creative expression of thoughts and opinions through spoken word acts, music, and comedy.
I casually watched and listened to a few acts before an unassuming young lady was introduced as a rapper/poet. She was small in stature but had a quiet confidence about her. It was obvious she was in her comfort zone. Her positive energy was almost visible as she approached the mic and confidently adjusted it to her height. The audience was quiet with anticipation as she cleared her throat and quickly shook her hands to mentally prepare. Then she spoke; with the first syllable, the room vibrated from the positive message she conveyed through her poetry. She used her entire body to bring her words to life. She was hard and elegant at the same time. Her voice was used as a finely tuned instrument to express a message of hope in a world of dysfunction and despair. She left everyone wanting more as she walked off the the stage to a standing ovation.
Now, I knew what the nervous energy was all about in my stomach. The young poet had awakened my creative and challenged me to get out of my comfort zone. As a writer on the journey of finding my voice and my audience, the open mic event was the perfect environment to expose my work to a different audience. I decided to read my recent essay entitled “I Hope You March.”
My legs took on a life of their own as I approached the MC and tapped him on the shoulder. I shyly asked if I could sign up to go on stage. Without hesitation, the MC eagerly told me I would be up in the next few minutes. Those few minutes were like two seconds as he called my name before I could get back to my seat. I almost froze as I heard the words “Next on the mic is HRick---show him some love!” I somehow found my way to the mic, composed myself, and tried to keep my mind and thoughts from racing. Time stood still as I read the first words of the letter I wrote to my yet to be born Great Grandson. “Dear Great Grandson” …… (if you haven’t seen this post please go to my website www.hrickgoff.com and read the entire letter). The rest was surreal, and I don’t remember much, but I do recall loud applause and handshakes as I left the stage. One young man from the audience approached me later and told me how much the message of my letter had moved him.
My time behind the mic was no more than five minutes, but the experience was a reminder to always be open to something different from my normal. I was nowhere near the caliber of the young rapper/poet and was waaay out of my comfort zone. But, I came to realize the nervous energy in my stomach was my call to step out of my old and step into something new. It's okay to be an observer, but sometimes you have to be a participant in the happenings around you. You never know who you might positively influence or touch in some way. The experience was also a reminder that the destination is the future, but the journey is now! I can't wait for the next open mic night.