In August of this year I got the opportunity to perform a story I had written about my mother for Keep Talking Cleveland (another local storytelling series). I had only found out two days before the show that my story had been accepted. I was instantly excited and terrified. I had done storytelling shows before but this was a much different story than I‘d ever done before AND it was the Happy Dog Anniversary show meaning it was going to be recorded and played on Ideastream….. I.E I was going to be on the radio!!! I had submitted the story to Keep Talking previously as well as submitted it to some local publications. You see the thing is my mom was the craziest person I have ever known and I was haunted by memories of her even before she passed away three years ago. Once I started writing and performing I KNEW I had to get this story out in order to move forward. I was anxious and full of self-doubt the days leading up to the performance but I can honestly say performing that story was the hardest most rewarding thing I have ever done. It helped me begin to find peace with my mother’s passing and with my mother’s mental illness; her memories will always be with me but seem less heavy. After the show several people I had never met came up to hug me and thank me for making them feel less alone. I sobbed in my car on the way home from the performance and beamed with pride a few weeks later as I drove listening to my voice from the radio.
A couple weeks ago I was sitting in bed about to get out my computer to write, procrastinating as usual I checked my Facebook, Gmail, Instagram, Pintrest and Snapchat before looking at my Bumble. If you don’t know what Bumble is, consider yourself lucky. Bumble is a dating app in which you see pictures and get to see what people think passes as funny or charming in order to make a match and maybe get dates. The site touts itself as feminist because people can’t talk unless they match and the female initiates conversation ( ie less dick pics). Really it means you work up the courage to talk to someone you find attractive who at least initially thought you were attractive or accidentally swiped the wrong way on you only to not get a response 75% of the time. Or at least that’s my experience.
So anyways against my better judgement I had gone on the app after swearing off online dating less than 2 months earlier because how does a single 36 year old meet people these days? No seriously, how? Leave a comment if you have suggestions. I can’t say I’ve had the best luck with online dating or just dating in general but thought “Why not?” So here I am texting with some random guy when I really should be writing. We had been exchanging dad jokes (my favorite) and he told did some stand up in the past. We ended up talking about storytelling, He had heard of Story Club Cleveland but never been to an event, he had however been to Keep Talking Cleveland very recently. I asked how recently and he told me he thought it was in September. He then tells me “I had to leave. There was this girl telling a story about her dead mom that should have been told to a therapist, it was super depressing.” Crickets. “Oh man I hope that wasn’t your story, lol.”
“If the story was in August and not September and was being recorded, it most certainly was my story and my dead mom”. My first reaction was “Screw this dude” and I almost unmatched him instantly. He apologized when he realized what had just happened and I went from hating this guy to missing my mom to feeling self-doubt over my storytelling abilities in a matter of minutes.
You see Storytelling has become a huge part of my identity over the last year and a half, in an almost obsessive way. Although I’ve been a story teller for most of my life, it wasn’t until I moved to Cleveland 2.5 years ago that I learned public storytelling was a thing! After attending shows in spring and summer of 2017, I brought back a blog of stories I started after grad school, began listening to The Moth Radio Hour and attended Story Club and Keep Talking almost religiously. I performed my first “shaky laugh at myself when no one else will” open mic story at Story Club in July 2017 and in September 2017 a story on my lack of athletic ability was chosen for Keep Talking Cleveland.
The strangest thing happened once I opened my mouth in front of the microphone for that second story: I felt strong and confident. Not an ounce of me was anxious, depressed or regretful, feelings that plagued me everyday of my life. I continued going to shows and performing here and there. I did a mostly funny piece on getting a ticket for selling beer to someone underage at Keep Talking and an open mic piece I did on an awful one night stand with a politically unwoke man led to Dana Norris asking me to be a featured performer at Storyclub West. I loved getting laughs and feeling confident. I was also more motivated to write for my blog and took a couple memoir writing classes. For years prior to this people would listen to my unofficial storytelling at work lunches or friend’s parties and tell me I needed to write a book. I always joked I’d title it “A long story long: The Amy Phipps Story” But it had always been just that a joke and a private dream. But now with storytelling and my new found love of writing it all seemed possible. Through all of this I knew there was one story I had to tell, I needed to talk about my mother.
So there I was texting with a man I had never met but had some hopes of maybe going on a date with telling me he left my story. Not only was I alone but I also felt like I might not be good at my new hobby. I told him I understood there was no way he could have known that was my story and that I knew not everyone would like every story I did. I went on three dates with him in one week. The third date he invited me over for dinner then afterwards while we sat next to each other on the couch made a big point of being “honest” with me by saying he had just gotten out of a relationship and went looking too soon. What? You couldn’t text me or ghost me like a normal human? You had to “Break up” with me in person at your house after three dates?!
Storytelling and dating actually have a lot in common as both are risky business. They involve me opening myself up to potential rejection, heartbreak and disappointment in order to hopefully find happiness, acceptance and above all human connection. I’m very proud and honored to now be a co-producer of Storyclub Cleveland so I can say at least one of them has been a positive journey. Maybe someday I will find the mythical one but until then I’ll keep putting myself out there because if nothing else the material it provides is priceless.