This evening, I did something terrifying and embarrassing. It was something I swore I would never do. Especially in public, where people would know. Wasn’t gonna do it. Nope. Not ever.
Then I did.
I sang. Out loud.
I know some of you are thinking “whaaaaa?? What’s the big whooping deal?”
Rewind the tape 30 years (ahem, maybe go back a few more) and you’d see me singing my little heart out about two rows back in the choir. Then, I got some coaching: “Why don’t you just mouth the words, honey?”
I was a pretty obedient kid, so I did. I got the message loud and clear. Until tonight.
If you’re still reading, and Hollywood and the internet have primed you for a late-in-life-rises-to-sing-on-stage ending, I’ll let you know right now that it’s not coming.
But here’s what I did figure out tonight, standing on the cool, grey stones outside, feeling the orange heat of an outdoor fire at my back and the early fall breeze stirring the paper in my hands.
Sometimes, you just have to let that old stuff go. The can’t, not good enough, don’t know how, never should’s. Really, who cares?
Do you even care anymore?
If you want to know how to do something, ask a teacher. We had an excellent instructor talk to us about the mechanics of singing. He reminded us that we all have the machinery, it’s a matter of learning to use it.
That’s a very powerful thought. We can probably each list a number of things we know we’re not good at. But if you’ve never learned how to do something, how can you be expected to do it well? Nobody every took the time to try to teach me to sing. They just told me I couldn’t. And the shame of it is I believed them. For a very long time.
We get second opinions on all kinds of things, we research our endless options on the internet, choosing just the right pair of shoes.
Then an offhand opinion pops up, and we take it as gospel. That makes no sense.
How much time did that tired choir director spend on her comment to me? Probably less than a second. But I’ve considered it truth since then.
Take that list of things you’re not good at and examine it closely. There are probably some things you really can’t do. I’m pretty short – there’s a reason I never made the basketball team. Several, actually, but that’s okay because I don’t really care.
Knowing what you care about is key. It lets you choose.
Once you figure out what you want to do, do it. A lot. We tend to live in the have-it-all-now-you-deserve-it world, but that doesn’t really work well. You have to find your passion then put your heart and soul into it, like this:
(TED talk) BLACK: My journey to yo-yo mastery
Maybe it’s no yo-yo mastery for you, yet once you have an area of focus, you can begin to say no to the distractions. We can’t do it all, or at least we can’t do it all well, in spite of what messages are out there.
One of my least favorite questions is “how do you balance it all?” because of the underlying assumption that we can or even should strive to balance it all. That’s not very humane, nor is it possible, in my opinion. So we have to make choices and when we choose the things we care about, when we build on a foundation of our strengths, we bring our best self forward.
Once you’ve made a choice, make the time.
I’ll be honest, I love to sing and I’ll keep doing it, perhaps to my family’s chagrin, but I’m not going to join a choir or take voice lessons, it’s not at the top of my list. Getting good at the top of the things on my list – some personal, some professional – is where I’ll be spending my time.
People say they can’t find the time to do something.
It’s not a matter of finding it, it’s a matter of making it. Making it yours, for a specific purpose, then respecting that choice enough to keep it.
That’s the hardest part of all, even harder than finding the right note.
A change takes courage.
I am still stunned that I opened my mouth and let the sounds come out. In public. But what shocks me even more is this: Nothing changed.
The world did not stop.
People did not clamp their hands over their ears and run screaming from the patio.
They just sang.
Suddenly, anything is possible.
Some really good singing and further discussion: Claron McFadden: Singing the primal mystery (TED Video)