About a week ago, a woman I know, Mary Kay, who taught at the university with me and who basically taught me how to teach and who is also in my book club, a friend, and someone I admire so much, sent me an email asking me if I was available today, from 10:30-11:30 to participate in a panel discussion about mentoring in the arts, taking place at the university.
I usually have office hours during those times, but I knew I could cancel, so I responded that I as available.
Mary Kay emailed me the information, but to be honest, it was pretty vague, and all it basically stated was that I would be part of a panel discussion about what Mary Kay said: mentoring in the arts.
So when I got to campus and looked up where I was supposed to meet Mary Kay, I was a little unnerved to discover that it was taking place at the university’s performing art’s center…on the stage.
And when I arrived, I quickly found out that I was part of an 8 person panel discussing, of course, mentoring in the arts, IN FRONT OF AN AUDIENCE. A large audience. An audience of top local big shots and artists.
I am not exaggerating when I say that I have a serious panic attack.
But before I even had a chance to take a deep breath, I was seated IN FRONT OF ALL THESE PEOPLE. While everyone was introduced, I realized that all these women had amazing stories to tell. Some were dancers, some were musicians, some where painters/sculptures. It seemed like everyone had traveled across the world to perform/showcase their art.
I honestly had no idea why I was there (I was representing the art of writing!).
We were asked to answer the question: how old were you when you discovered your passion for this art and how have you cultivated it?
Of course, every woman had some amazing answer about how as a child she started cultivating her art, she devoted herself to it, she traveled the world expressing it or in search of it.
When my turn came I answered honestly: My biological father was an amazing storyteller. My parents divorced. Stories were no longer told. I majored in history because I loved stories. After my BA, I kind of stumbled into writing not necessarily because of a passion, but more because I didn’t know what else to do. And yes, writing is a passion of mine–not fiction, mind you–but it all came rather late in life (compared to the others), and has only been something I cultivate when I have time (which is not a lot). But I do love telling and hearing stories.
That was a condensed version. I’m sure I was more eloquent. I hope I was, at least.
More questions were asked and I did my best to just answer honestly, even if that meant I didn’t actually have a wealth of knowledge on the subject.
I felt like such a loser. I couldn’t compete with these other women at all. I didn’t even know why I was there.
But then as I was leaving, a few people from the audience came up to me and said how much they admired my story, how much they are still searching for their passion, how my honesty was refreshing.
It made me feel better. And it made me realize that maybe I do have a bit of wisdom to share, however small it may be.
Besides the fact that I’m still not sure why I was there, I am thankful I participated (and didn’t run away as soon as I saw the large audience).
I guess sometimes the best lessons in life, even the best artistic lessons, are stumbled upon.