I burst into tears in a room full of strangers. It was awesome.

Not sarcasm, it really was awesome.

I had shown up to the writer’s group at my local library. The small talk of “How’s your granddaughter?” and “Did you submit your poetry collection?” indicated that I was the only first timer. I sat down, introduced myself and the group took turns sharing their pieces and damn, they were good. When it was my turn, I was so eager to get feedback from the talented group around me.  

My piece was a short story about a third grade student named Amy. When she was putting on her boots before recess, she lost her balance and fell, then someone called out “retard!” Amy took a deep breath, got up and went outside to find her classmates. She found them at the corner of the field shuffling into a giant snow fort and was so excited to check it out. When she got closer one boy yelled out “there’s room for everyone,” looked at her and added, “except Amy.” She walked away and suddenly—

I only read a few lines before the tears started. No, not tears, sobs. Still, I was determined to share my work. I tried to finish but the words coming out of my mouth were no longer coherent… 

One writer asked, “Are you Amy?” I nodded. 

Then another asked, “Shall I read it for you?” I nodded again. 

By the end of my story, I had had a chance to regain composure and apologize. 

“Don’t be sorry,” said a friendly voice, “we’ve all done it.”. 

Two years later, I still can’t explain why I broke down. I wasn’t embarrassed and I wasn’t even sad. It could be that I had come to the realization that I was telling a group of strangers a story that nobody knew outside of that unforgiving school yard.

It could be that the story I was telling was based on the moment I learned that there were consequences of being me:

Writing my tests in a separate room made me inferior. 

Running slower in gym class made me a loser. 

Being different made me undesirable. 

Instead of prying into all of that, they gave me constructive feedback; praising me for my use of flashback and critiquing my underdeveloped characters. Instead of offering pity, they offered support when I needed help reading my story. And instead of showing discomfort from my emotional display, they were able to relate. I wasn’t the only one writing about something other than sunshine and rainbows. 

I cried my eyes out in front of a group of strangers and in that refreshing moment, I knew I was exactly where I belonged. 

That is tranquility.

Thank you for reading

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