It's hard to believe that this was me four years ago. Four years ago, I made a speech which took form as a poem which would change my life in ways I had never imagined.
I wrote "Speech of the Masquerade" in late summer of 2009, but it wasn't until the spring of 2010 when I shared this poem with anyone. As I said in the video, writing for me was an escape--a place where I could freely express myself. As a shy high school introvert, I struggled expressing myself in front of people. Fear of criticism was debilitating. Like the speaker of my poem, I kept my thoughts locked up in a notebook.
In the spring of 2010, I submitted this poem to Poetry Matters Contest after an English teacher mentioned the submission guidelines for the poetry contest. Honestly, I didn't expect anything, but still, I had nothing to lose. This was the first time I had submitted writing for any kind of competition. A month or so later, I received an email congratulating me for winning first place in the high school category for poetry. I danced, I shouted in joy, and exclaimed to friends about this accomplishment...but then I realized the catch. I'd have to publically recite my poem at the awards ceremony. This thought was enough to paralyze me.
For as long as I could remember, I cursed public speaking. The experiences I had with it involved memorized recitations in front of classmates who either paid meticulous attention or fell asleep in the middle of your presentation. Needless to say, my experiences with presentations was rather negative. The idea of reading in front of a crowd was daunting, especially if it was in front of adults. In a way, I was afraid of how my poem would be received by those around me.
About week or so before my recitation, I sought help from a former English teacher of mine who seemed to be the guru of public speaking. She coached me and reminded me of my narrator's strength. My narrator had the power to command speech. The speaker is unafraid to speak and reveal her true self. In reality, I was the narrator and I had the power to speak my mind.
When I read this poem at the awards ceremony, I feel an unexplainable bout of confidence. This doesn't mean I wasn't nervous because I was terribly afraid before the ceremony began. I mean to say that as I spoke the words of poem I felt the power of what I had written. I was vulnerable, but this openness was the start of change. Who knew that this change would lead to publication of my in a poetry anthology.
Now when I think about this poem, I think of how this poem has changed me. I still am nervous presenting my poetry, but I've grown more comfortable on the stage. I go to open mics, I share my poetry with strangers, and I have found my voice in writing. "Speech of the Masquerade" is more than a poem. "Speech of the Masquerade" is my voice.