The truth is, opening your heart can be dangerous. My solution has always been to write it down piece by piece. Now, taking a deep breath and looking at an unfamiliar crowd, I let poetry speak the words that I normally would not say.

I am usually not the type who will scream “Hello” across the street if I see someone familiar, or approach a stranger and begin a conversation. Instead, I will giggle or smile when I am left speechless. What I find more comfortable is for the other person to speak as I listen attentively. Sometimes it’s difficult to face the fact that I’m actually shy.

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After a week-long vacation, tenth grade returned like a long-lost friend. An array of students swarming out of the elevator blocked my path to English class. Moving an inch at a time, I finally reached the center of the hallway where my friend was waiting.

My eyes came to rest on a bulletin with the echoing bubble letters “Poetry Slam.”

I admitted to her how interesting it sounded. The problem is that “interesting” is not a word; it’s a placeholder, used when you really want to say something else. What I meant to tell her was that I had loads of journals at home rich with meaning and teeming with life.

The poetry slam came as no surprise; I had heard about this event since ninth grade, but I knew I couldn’t do it alone. So before I knew it, meetings and rehearsals had flown by and my friend and I, along with 20 other brave souls, were scheduled to take part in the event.

When the day finally arrived, I thought, Have I completely lost my mind?! I can’t do this. As the lights dimmed, students began crouching on the floor near rows of seats that had already been filled. I crossed my arms as my foot shook involuntarily. Poets, seated in the first two rows, all held their heads high and rehearsed words in the deep silence I was trying to create.

“Next is Katrina with ‘Unspoken.’” Startled back to reality, I staggered through the air, feeling motionless. The slight breeze from the window allowed me to float from my seat to the stage where the virtue of waiting was going to pay off. Holding tight to the podium to keep steady, I began.

“The truth is …” My heart was pounding because I knew that this subtle gesture had taken a lot of courage. I had to remember that I had chosen what to say, how to say it, and, most importantly, why I was saying it.

“Words cannot replace fear. Words cannot embrace an emotion. One cannot live with sentences alone.” Words began jumping off the page of my journal into the minds of others. No, wait, that was my voice bouncing off the walls into the ears of those who cared. Yes, I finally spoke and they listened. There is no greater reward than pouring your heart out to those who will gently hold it. Slowly but surely, my nerves turned into courage. From now on, I can refer to myself as the shy, but not-so-quiet, girl.

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