Whitney Booth – Beginnings

Here’s Whitney Booth’s story from January’s “Beginnings” theme. She tells of letting loose and learning she was worth the risk.

the sandwich evangelist

In the last year, I’ve become a part of an incredible community called tenx9 nashville, which gathers monthly to hear nine people share true stories (in ten minutes or less) on a given theme. In January, I told my second story with tenx9. The theme was “Beginnings.” Here it is. 

People always say that the beginning of a relationship is the best part — lots of firsts, each with enough nervous excitement and anticipation to forget that we’ve felt this way before, but with someone who is now a distant memory— or so we pretend. It’s that time when everything still seems perfect. Not yet complicated. You’re enamored. It’s great. The naiveté is allowed and encouraged. “Just enjoy it,” people say. The beginning is the best part.

For any of us who have made it past this stage, or hope to, this trite or sentimental outlook on love…

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Beginnings – The Understory

(The “understory” is a thematic weaving together of the 9 stories, written live as they are heard and then performed as a  summary of the night.)

If it begins with, “Oh boy, stage fright!”, it ends with finding your voice.
What begins with chapstick parties on the school bus, with a dinosaur thrown in, becomes twenty years of friendship.

The firsts of a new relationship are an all-too perfect beginning that ends in a phone call. And with the douchebag gone, becomes you, just you, saying, “Yes!”

When it begins with a naïve, if confident, traveller in 1971, be glad it didn’t end up in Turkish prison like it could. But if it begins with, “I’m just dead to the world,” you just know an obituary’s coming. And a very awkward funeral.

What began in Vermont on September 12th, 1983 became a new start: a path of creativity and identity lived stitch by stitch. Meanwhile, the feminist collective that began in Knoxville in ’94 did not end well. But it birthed its own legacy of voices & creativity, of thriving beyond surviving.

However it begins, and however it ends, peacefully, loved & cherished we hope, it’s always a new beginning for those you leave behind.

Remember: if you begin as Linda, you might end up as Mae. You can end up whoever you want to be. Even if that means re-beginning as Linda.

tenx9nashville, this was your (under)story.

Big thanks to our storytellers. You made this another great night. – Cary.

Kristen Chapman-Gibbons – Beginnings

Tenx9 regular Kristen Chapman-Gibbons shares her story “Creating a Space Where There Was None,” about–among other things–creating a feminist collective only to get thrown out. Our theme was “Beginnings.” 

Big Blue Dot Y'all

Tenx9 Nashville hosts monthly storytelling events in Nashville and around the world. I am deeply honored to be a part of this community of people. Our motto is an Irish saying, “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” The joy, insight and beauty of true stories leaves my heart larger every time I go. Find an event. Start a satellite Tenx9 in your city. The theme this month was, “Beginnings.” I tried to make this one “NPR-friendly.”

You hear it all the time in some drippy social media post — it’s not the destination…it’s the journey. And yeah, sometimes that is true – like when you want to be a Human Rights attorney when you are 8, but then you grow up and share classrooms with others wanting to practice law and you fear for your soul. So…you shift, you adapt and you allow…

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Laura Cockman – Beginnings

At January 2015’s “Beginnings”, Laura Cockman shares about the beginning of a longtime friendship. 

They say friendship isn’t something you learn in school, but I’ll tell you where you can learn it: on the school bus.

I was born cautious, and by cautious I mean generally fearful of everything. I was also born screaming, and so you’d think that I would have grown into a loud child, but it really seemed like I exhausted all of my energy before I left the hospital, and by the time I climbed aboard my first school bus, I was mostly interested in keeping to myself.

The bus was an early one, and since I was lucky enough to live so far away from school that the proverbial walking-up-hill-to-school-both-ways would have been more like wheezing through a marathon, the bus driver compensated for how early we had to wake up by consistently arriving to each stop ten minutes earlier than she needed to. This meant that she arrived at school ten minutes before we were allowed into the building. An eternity in the pre-cellphone era.

Most mornings while I waiting for the teachers to escort us off the bus and into the school building, I would sit quietly with my girlfriends. We were a real exciting bunch. Our number-one morning activity was what we’d refer to as a “chapstick party.” Even though we were allowed to stand up once the bus stopped being in motion, we remained in our seats and passed chapsticks in circles, sniffing them. Yeah, we were scintillating.

But nobody else ever stood up on the bus either. And so everybody was confused the day the bus floor began rumbling. It happened once, twice, then stopped. Glancing around the edge of the bus seat, nothing appeared out of order, so I turned my attention back to someone’s brand new key lime Lipsmacker. But it tumbled out of my hand when the floor rumbled again, this time more violently, sending tremors up the entire back of my seat.

The bus driver seemed too busy glancing out the window at the scenic squares of concrete she parked by every morning to be concerned with things that could actually have been happening on her bus, so I resolved not to worry about the rumblings. Remember, this was my first bus-riding experience, so I was still a couple of years away from the bus driver who would crash into another bus when she forgot to brake, the bus driver who hosted gambling games for cash prizes on the way home (I still regret telling my parents about that one before I could make some cash), and the bus driver who forced certain children to sing karaoke to earn passage onto the bus. In short, I still (naively) trusted bus drivers.

And eventually the rumbling stopped, so I told myself to stop worrying. Like I said, I was naïve. I should have known that the ceasing of the rumbling should have been a cause for concern.

Suddenly, a tentacle lashed out from the seat above me, scattering the remaining chapstick tubes everywhere. No, not a tentacle…an arm.

“Rrrrrr,” growled the creature attached to the arm.

And there, squatting on the top of a bus seat, arms waving frenetically about, was Jonathan, my soon-to-be best friend.

But I wouldn’t know this yet.

“I. Am. A dinosaur!” yelled the creature as it flung itself down from its perch on the bus seat. I recoiled as its arms lashed out wildly in my direction.

“Run,”  he screeched, “Or I will eat you!”

Not having had much contact with boys or dinosaurs (and what’s the difference, really?) hurdling from the sky directly at me in my short existence, I did the exact opposite. Curled into the fetal position, I peeked out as my friends sprinted up and down the bus aisle, and Jonathan chased them.

You might wonder where the bus driver, that responsible adult, was at this point, while children shrieked and ping-ponged from seat to seat for ten solid minutes, but I promise I can explain this to you. Her inaction in this situation can be completely rationalized by acknowledging that there is no song more perfectly captivating that Faith Hill’s “This Kiss,” and that such a true musical treasure can only be fully appreciated when on repeat and when all other senses are completely tuned out.

So I lay safely curled in the bus seat when the tapping began on the back of my skull. Prepared for another aerial assault, I swatted the air above me. Nothing. Rawwwr, purred-the dinosaur-boy from above me. I waited. Prepared.

A hand shot out from underneath the seat, latching around my ankle and dragging me onto the floor.

“I’m a dinosaur,” he confirmed, “And I’m going to eat you.” If this were Jurassic Park, he was the raptor hiding in the bushes when I’d thought I was finally safe. Clever girl, ha.

I may have never been as excited to see teachers as the moment when they came to let me off the bus. And I may have never been less excited to board the school bus as I was during the next few days as the primordial beast waited to awaken for ten minutes of hunting each morning when the bus stopped. Thank goodness for the end of the school day, when my neighbors would knock on my front door and ask me to play.

So my heart was beating fast with post-school-day, post-bus-ride adrenaline when I went to open the door this particular day.

“Helloooo-oh,” I said. Jonathan stood there.

“I’m a dinosaur,” he informed me.

My mom walked out from the kitchen.

“Who’s this?” She asked, “A new friend?” Or course, you can probably guess by now how Jonathan introduced himself.

“I’m her boyfriend.”

“How sweet,” Mom smiled, and Jonathan walked into the house.

One exhausting hour later of oh-how-cute-they’re-playing-tag and would-it-be-too-much-to-pray-for-another-asteroid-to-strike-Earth-now, Jonathan’s mother called asking to send him home.

“Hit the road, Jack,” Mom told him.

Jonathan marched out the door, down the driveway, into the cul-de-sac, and, well, hit the road. With his fist.

“You can’t call me, Jack, though,” he called out as he ran off, “Next time, it’s hit the road, Jon.”

Giggling maniacally, I suddenly knew there would be a next time.

Now, nearly twenty years later, reflecting back on the moment when I knew Jonathan and I would become best friends, I can’t help but think of the saying that friendship is like peeing your pants: everybody can see it, but only you can really feel it. And when I think of this statement, I have to agree that friendship truly is like peeing your pants, because the first time I met Jonathan, I kind of did.