I'm told this was the biggest turnout at SAM for any tour of its type. The thanks for that goes entirely to you, the audience- you, who took the time to transport yourself out there, who chose this over so many other ways to spend a Thursday evening, who came all the way downtown for an event that lasted only thirty minutes, trusting in the possibility. You, who figured out the parking and the ticket line and what else, who wanted to take part in something, to blow on that flickering flame you believe in and maybe make it bigger. Any words of thanks I can summon up now, in the face of such a gesture, would be horrendously inadequate. I'm humbled into a state beyond words, and am hardly able to comprehend such an outpouring of goodwill.
People often ask me what it's like to give speeches like this, or how I feel afterwards. I immediately eject a bunch of superlatives, attempting to give shape to the thrill I feel. "It was awesome," I'll exclaim with ebullient vehemence, using the relevant hand gestures. Such sentiments barely scratch the surface. I offer below some further reflections on the evening from my perspective.
There were so many faces I wanted to talk to, listen to. So many memories fluttering in my mind, being confronted with those smiles and grins of anticipation, gestures of present excitement. I wanted to reach out and touch all that, to feel the anthemic high of togetherness. That's how it feels at the outset; then the sensations begin to parse themselves out.
I see my best friends, familiar, anchors letting me know it's okay to be there, standing there, braying to the high heavens. They let me summon the drive to plunge ahead, to wriggle further into myself. Additionally, there were people I recognized and wanted to catch up with, faces I was thrilled to see in life, right in front of me, faces I hadn't seen in months or even years.
Then there were people whose smiles triggered faint memories, jogging loose the ephemera of passing time. I remember smiling at a woman in a beanie before it all started. Where had I seen her face before? Questions, stilling my mind with contemplation amidst all the noise, reminding me how small I am, how lucky I am to be alive, here, today. Two young boys with curious eyes. The tall man in the back, thoughtful, hand on his chin just like you do, a stranger you already know. Others gathering around, new to me. What deep reservoirs of stories and perceptions are they coming from?
There is a focus in public speaking performance that is both heady and precise. For everything to come off as intended, ninety-five percent of my mind has to be on the work; any less and the spell is broken. As you may know, however, the remaining five percent is still very much alive, taking in the manyness of a humming space. The mind still stirs with echoes and reflections, long after it's all over. I wanted so badly to take each person aside and ask after their day, see how they've been. Did I know them? I know I wanted to.
I longed for each millisecond to hold, for some impossible way to wallow in the immediate details, that there might be time enough to reflect on the multitude of facets each moment carried. A listener tossing her hair, breathing further into a new thought. The click of someone's camera. A family coming closer, intrigued. I register faces nodding at an oblique historical reference, and I stifle my surprise and continue on. Eager eyes at Blindfold Gallery, framed by glasses and a burgeoning 'fro. I want to inhale the worth of this goodness. It doesn't come from me; we're all building it together. There was a light in your being, in your excitement, and I imagined we mirrored each other. Thank you.
This event took place because and only because of SAM's great Erin Bailey. Without her enterprise, enthusiasm and support the evening wouldn't have existed.