There was a fire drill or an unexpected fire alarm at work on Tuesday morning. I finished up the thing I was doing, grabbed my coat, and headed outside with the rest of the building.
When I got outside, it was like a rush of freedom. We were outside, even if only briefly, and our time was our own, until the call came to return indoors. I noticed the magnolia tree on the front lawn was starting to bloom, which is exciting, because it means the cherry blossoms will be in full force at Ault Park very soon. I was happy and bouncy and excited to be outside and away from anything work related, even if just for ten minutes. Not that I hate work or my job, quite the opposite, I was just reveling in the oddity of the unexpected.
And it seemed to me that a lot of people were looking at me like I was crazy to be so filled with joy and delight. And it seemed to me that, in contrast, some people were acting like they were at a funeral, instead of happy to have been given an opportunity to get up and walk around for a bit. To me, it wasn’t an annoyance so much as a chance for a change of scenery and some fresh air.
I guess it got me thinking a bit about perceptions. I mean, I guess you don’t really know from someone’s blank stare what they are thinking. Maybe that I was clearly insane, or off my meds, or maybe that they wished they could act less rigidly and structured? Not really sure, but it left me with a feeling like, “Hey y’all, where is your joy?”
It made me want to infect people with my own joy, to rain delight down onto them until they felt it, too. To let them know, you don’t have to stand in the yard all sad and deflated looking, or act any kind of way that is expected of you, or look at me sideways when I spin around in a circle, because “Yay, we’re outside and it’s impromptu recess!” I mean, do those things if they make you happy, I freaking guess.
The other thing about perception it got me thinking about is how when you make art, you often don’t really know what people think of it. But then, you don’t really know what people think of you unless you tell them, or unless they’ve been talking about you behind your back and word gets back to you. I suppose. I think back to February, when I went to an Emily Dickinson read-a-thon, and the people I respected most in the room stopped their conversations and sat down to listen to me read. Me, specifically. And one of them told me later it was because I infuse such joy and personality into her verse. I was so moved and humbled by this, and I wouldn’t have known, I wouldn’t have even considered that anyone specifically wanted to hear me. But Dickinson loved words and toying with them, and I shine a light through that lens when I read her. I can’t help it. I suppose I just can’t help myself.
I think that’s the core of me during the fire drill. People see me just being myself, because I give zero craps what anyone thinks. ‘Cept when I find out someone respects and appreciates my work, or the way I read a poem, and then it turns out, I give quite a few cares after all. And it makes being that kind of joyful, free-spirited person all the more important to me.