So last night I did something crazy and different.
Three weeks ago, I started a performance workshop intensive class. It was geared towards people with some performance experience who were interested in creating and performing a mini-set of (primarily) popular music. It ended with a concert at a local performance venue with an amazing live band.
Now, my terror of singing in front of people has been well documented here (and here). But with a lot of help (and a lot of therapy-grade weeping), I busted past that in the last year. Not only did I get up the guts to audition for a musical, I actually has the opportunity to perform in THREE last summer. Yes, thank you, you can applaud for that.
Just as I was getting used to the idea of myself as a person who auditions for musicals, Michelle (singing teacher) asked me if I was interested in doing a workshop that would culminate in a performance–a performance where I would sing as me and not as a character.
“Sure!” said I. “Sounds like fun!”
And it did sound like fun. Until I started hunting for music and realized that, oh yeah, I’D NEVER SUNG ANYTHING BUT MUSICAL THEATRE IN MY ENTIRE LIFE AND THIS ISN’T FUN AND OH YEAH WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING!?
I struggled through the entire rehearsal process. Each week I almost-but-not-quite pulled the plug on the whole thing. It wasn’t until a week before the show that I had a good rehearsal where I actually felt like I could get up and sing in front of people and maybe my music wasn’t the most terrible music ever (irrationally hating my music is a big part of my personal resistance process).
Just as I was finally feeling ready to do the damn thing, BAM! PLOT TWIST. I woke up in the middle of the night Friday sick as a dog. Saturday was a mess. And Sunday morning I was crying in the shower, devastated at the thought that I was going to have to back out. Because after weeks of considering backing out, I realized that I really, really wanted to sing my songs. And more than that, I sure as shit wanted to get SOMETHING out of the mental anguish that I had to go through to get to the point where I was prepared to perform. I was going to get on that motherfucking stage if it killed me.
Rehearsing day of the show. I changed later.
Rehearsal Sunday morning was rough. Sound check was better. But then, sitting in the green room, something strange happened. I had a few pre-show butterflies in my basket, but by and large…I wasn’t that nervous. I looked down at the stage with the mic sitting there bathed in a spotlight that I would soon stand in and I just felt…ready. It wasn’t that I was supremely confident–I was almost positive that I would screw up something (which I did, beeteedubs), and the possibility of my voice just giving out was still in my brain. But strangely, those things didn’t scare me. If I started wrong, I’d start over. If I forgot the words, I’d make something up. If I got lost, I’d look to the piano player to help me get back on track. If I hit a wrong note, I’d cut it short and move the fuck on.
Somehow, I seem to have reached the point where singing in front of people is not the scariest thing in the world anymore.
But how did I get there? How, in less than a year, did I go from being terrified to being merely jittery?
Here’s how. I stopped caring.
And I don’t mean that in a defeatist way. I mean it in an empowering way. Somehow, my longing to sing outweighed–however slightly–my fear that I would suck. I didn’t care about being good enough. I just wanted to sing.
Sitting backstage, I realized that I’ve been chasing singers my whole life. I gave up on myself really early–probably too early. But I never gave up the desire. And in order to fill that desire, I surrounded myself with singers and singing. I’ve been friends with tons of singers. I’ve dated many. In college, I was the girl sitting in on free music department master classes, furiously taking notes. There was even a role in a musical–one that I magically landed without a formal audition, because there would have been NO WAY I would have done an audition at that point. There was karaoke, although it took me literally years to actually pick up the mic myself–up until then I just sat and watched everyone else. I wanted to be good. I wanted to be good so badly that I would rather not sing than have to face the fact that I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be.
But I’ve let that go. I’ve accepted the fact that I am not some kind of miraculously gifted singer. I’m not bad, but I’m not great. And that’s ok. Being good enough is just that–good enough. I’ll never sell out Carnegie Hall. But I will sing where and when I can, and if you don’t like it you are free to leave the room.
I was embarrassed by my love of singing for such a long time. I was embarrassed that I loved something I was only mediocre at. But I’ve been on this planet for 31 years already and God knows how many more I have left. I want to spend them doing what I love, even if y’all don’t love to hear it.
Good enough is good enough for me.
*If you’re interested in exploring your voice and taking risks in an environment that is safe and fun, please talk to Michelle at Vanport Square Studios. She’ll set you up good.