Without a drop of liquid courage to my name, with shaking knees and a weak quavering voice – I stood on the dim, low stage quietly (too quietly) singing the words to our song. If the group of mostly too-drunk twenty-something union members just slightly below me could even make out my voice coming through the oft-abused microphone, they would have heard the words I’ve sung softly, privately, hundreds of times before.
I’ll pretend that I’m kissing, those lips I am missing, and hope that my dreams will come true…
When I added an item to my 25×25 that said “Try something scary I’ve never done before,” I had in mind racing on a motorcycle, soaring in a hot air balloon, or even diving out of an airplane. Things that were dangerous – and therefore scary – were also exciting, exhilarating, enticing. When I thought long and hard about them, I didn’t even really feel afraid. I wanted to do them, I longed for them.
And so, they didn’t quite fit the bill.
But what was scary? What made me shake down to my core just thinking about it? How about the idea of standing up, alone, in front of a bunch of strangers to do something I’m just not very good at. Willingly subjecting myself to a public failure? Oh yeah, that was scary.
The funny thing is, I’m always singing. I sing loudly in the car and softly at concerts. From the moment my feet hit the floor in the morning until I leave for work, I’m making up silly songs about the pug, telling Adam that I love him (in song, of course), and singing along to even the really terrible music on the radio. Then at quitting time, when I come home and cook dinner, I start it all over again. In high school, I had to sing on stage once, but I was playing a prostitute and the stage lights were blindingly bright. I was terrible, but I didn’t have to think about the fact that beyond that shield of hot lights and stage make-up, about a hundred of my peers were listening to my voice. It was the first, and (I thought) last time I would ever sing in public.
And then nearly ten years later, I stood up and did karaoke.
The big question I wonder before I hit “publish” on this post is this one: why? I’ve lived my life happily abstaining from public singing. I do pretty much anything to avoid public criticism, and yet, there I was. There are a lot of rather cliche quotes floating around on the internet about how you will never be the person you want to be until you just start living that person’s life ( not cliche at all: Melissa has a beautiful post on faking it til you make it). I’ve spent more than 20 years clinging to the walls at parties, clapping and cheering softly after concerts, awkwardly wiggling instead of busting a move on the dance floor.
I have never, ever had the confidence I’d so often admired, especially in other women. I think, in some part of my brain not entirely connected with reality, I thought that by standing up on stage and singing a song, I’d become that person. I’d belt it out and in a scene befitting a feel-good film, the entire party would start clapping and singing along as I owned the stage. Brilliant, flattering lighting would appear and the sound system would suddenly greatly improve. That most definitely didn’t happen – it’s pretty safe to say that I was, in fact, terrible. But dammit if, for a few terrifying minutes, I didn’t feel brave.
It’s a small step toward being that confident girl I’ve always wanted to be, but they say the first one’s the hardest. I’m hoping that’s the case. In any event, here’s to many, many more small steps. Skål!