Moving Past Fear to Embrace Live Storytelling
Self-challenge brings surprising rewards
“Here she comes! Keep that applause going for our next storyteller! She’s almost here!”
Suddenly I am onstage, blinking into lights but seeing only the closest faces. They are waiting for me to begin. I swallow hard and remind myself I chose this moment.
Time to Grow
Weeks before, when asked what I would like for my birthday, I didn’t hesitate: “I want to tell a story at The Moth.”
To celebrate my 64th trip around the sun I craved a challenge rather than a party. I had retired from teaching and done some writing but taken few risks. It was time to stretch.
One nagging worry — maybe all the participants will be young people. Will I feel out of place? Will people half my age be interested in my story?
No matter what happens, I told myself, I want to be able to say I did this once.
Age vs. Experience
I love listening to The Moth Podcast — true stories told without notes in front of a live audience. I attended a Moth Story Slam in Atlanta and learned that just two days after my 64th birthday, the topic would be Wisdom. My favorite story involves what I learned as a first-year teacher, so it seemed a perfect fit.
After writing and rewriting my story, I needed more help. I contacted a successful Moth storyteller to arrange a one-on-one session. It felt strange to ask someone decades younger for guidance but once our zoom call began, we were just two storytellers — one experienced and one hopeful.
He watched a video of my storytelling and offered counsel. Mostly, though, my young mentor simply encouraged me, as the best teachers do. The one piece of advice he repeated was, “Have fun. If you’re having fun up there, the audience will too.”
Practice Brings Confidence
Every time I thought of performing in front of others, I became visibly nervous. An anxious performer is torture to watch so I practiced until I felt completely comfortable with the words.