Agony, Far More Painful Than Yours

On Friday, I did something that struck me later as something really important to me, internally. I posted a video on Facebook of me singing.

Let’s go back to high school, ok?

When I was in high school, a group of friends and I went to go audition for “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”. I had sung in chorus and did dance recitals and stuff, so it wasn’t like I was a shrinking violet or anything. But for some reason, when I had to sing the part I was given, I froze up and couldn’t make a sound beyond a whisper. To this day, I’m not really sure what happened, but it stuck with me and bothered me.

I did not get a part.

Some time later, auditions were happening for “Into the Woods”. I decided I’d join in with my friends again and try out, but I was only going to do the scene and not try for a singing role. I was thinking the Giant would be good (a role that, in this production, was just yelling lines into a microphone off-stage). I did my scene with someone and I think we did a pretty good job. So I was chatting in the hall with my pals and then one of the teachers came out and said that they wanted me to sing, too. And I said, “um, that was not my plan.” “Do it.” “Um, no.” “Do it.” “Errr… ok.”

And since I had not prepared anything, I was given “Happy Birthday” to sing. And I sang it very poorly. And was crabby about the whole thing afterward.

I did not get a part. Although I did end up running the sound effects for that show.

By that point, I had pretty much gotten in my head that I was not a singer and kept all that to the confines of my car, singing along with the radio. I was friends with a few sopranos and I think I just figured that that was how women sang. I’m not sure why. If you know me, you know I’m not a soprano. And I had certainly heard non-soprano voices before! But, much like the way I tried to initially get into running by sprinting all the time, I tried singing like you HAD to be operatic or something. NEITHER APPROACH WORKED.

Sometime during college, in my time with my improv troupe, the concept of singing for comedic purposes caught on with me (songs such as “Ketchup” and “I Have No Eyes (The Noodles Theme)” among others), and I did sing in public a few times. And I began to be more comfortable with that.

Fast forward to this year. Now I’m in a band and music is a dominant force in my life again, beyond passive listening. And darn it if the Malvinas space isn’t the most supportive group of people EVAR. And I found myself singing a verse of one of our songs in front of actual public people, not for comedic purposes. And bits of another piece. And trying things out at practice. And it’s not like some Susan Boyle-moment happened, but I realized that I’m not a Bad Singer like I had convinced myself in high school and beyond. I can carry a tune. I’m ok. And that’s all I need to be.

So when I found myself noodling on the ukelele and singing along and deciding to make my bandmates chuckle with the notion of Drummer Malvina going rogue on all the instruments, it was easy to hit publish on that video on Facebook. And it was only later that I realized how far I had come from those failed auditions. And it was still something that people hadn’t really seen from me before, if one noted my sister’s comments on the video. And then one of my bandmates and I ended up doing three songs at an open mic later that night. In front of PEOPLE. PEOPLE WE DIDN’T KNOW. And it was largely not-the-greatest-thing-ever, but that’s mostly because we chose our songs and practiced 15 minutes before going onstage. And in doing that we got an idea for a future project.

There’s a PBS Kids show called Martha Speaks, about a talking dog. A quote from that show: “You can’t let a little thing like total public humiliation stand between you and a good time.” It gets easier and easier to let that be a life motto as you get older and care less about what others think of you. It’s a gift to be able to get to that point as early as possible and take advantage of every opportunity for public humiliation performance, because sometimes great things happen.