“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt.
Last night I competed in the final heat of the 2018 Australian Poetry Slam competition, fighting for a place in the top 10 of the South Australian final next week. There’s not really any words that would do more justice to my performance than to say I totally, totally fucked it up. I forgot a line, and it threw me in a way I struggled to recover from which left me unable to regain focus and stumbling my way to the end of possibly the worst performance of my life. Granted, it may have remained slightly short of a complete train wreck, perhaps just a single car crash with no fatalities to speak of, but either way, it was devastating to see something I had worked so hard for fall through my fingers in such a way; kind of like a naked dream or falling off a cliff – horrifying to watch unfold yet powerless to do anything but pray everyone will have drunk enough they may not remember it in the morning.
I could sit here and blame any number of factors – it had been a stretch just to get there, I had only managed to give myself a matter of a days to learn a new two-minute spoken word piece, it came at the end of a week that had been stressful and hard, I hadn’t slept well for the week leading up to it, I’d driven four hours to get there and was already fatigued before it started etc etc. But the fact is, I could have stood in front of that mic completely prepared and still messed up because that kind of shit happens to the best of us sometimes, no matter what.
It would be easy to spiral down the rabbit hole of failure and self-loathing about now; to believe the old voices that are busting for a chance to remind me how much of a loser I am. Instead, today I remind myself I am human. That means I fall, and I fail, and I fuck up. But it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that I get up and brush the dirt from my knees and carry on. Giving up is not an option. Believing I am worthless because I didn’t meet my self-imposed standards is not an option. Hating on myself because of my humanity is not an option. And hiding from the world because part of me believes I’m no longer good enough or worthy enough to call myself a performance poet is not an option, as much as shame would have me believe that. But I’ve done the shame thing, and it didn’t end well, so I no longer allow that bitch to have any power over my life and worth anymore. What I now understand about shame is that it thrives in the dark places of our lives – the moment we expose it, the moment we speak it out loud, it loses its power over us.
So. My name is Kathy Parker and last night I totally fucked up the most important poem of the year for me because I’m flawed and messy and imperfect and make mistakes and fall often and fail often and that’s cool because that’s what makes me human. I’m also brave, and strong, and resilient, and determined, and fervent, hold no pretence and refuse to quit. And last night, I finished my poem. In spite of everything, I got to the end of that goddamn poem and did what I came to do. Because that’s all that mattered to me. Not winning. Not being the best. But showing up with the courage to be vulnerable and do something that scares me, simply because it scares me, simply because I choose to overcome my fear and be braver than I was yesterday. And knowing that even if I fail, at least I fail while daring greatly.
Congratulations to the ten incredible, well deserving finalists who will compete next week for a place at the national final in Sydney – I am in awe of the talent that Adelaide has lurking in these spoken word corners, and also props to the guys at Spoken Word SA who foster and nurture this talent through the opportunities and events they organise and make happen. So thankful to know, and be part of, such an amazing group of people.
Get your tickets to the SA Poetry Slam State Final here – will be a brilliant night!
Much love x