What My Singing Journey Has Taught Me About The Importance of Doing Things That Scare You
This low quality picture in which I have demon eyes is actually pretty meaningful. It was taken recently at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC where I sung my heart out as a backing vocalist with The Devyl Nellys. (My dancing was pretty on point too, if I do say so myself. Sometimes I feel like I look as awkward as Elaine dancing on Seinfeld.)
You see, music was my first love.
I grew up listening, singing, and dancing to everything from Bob Marley to Sade. I'd sing myself to sleep as a baby (the most adorable La La's you'd ever heard, I'm sure) and even belt out "opera" (I put it in quotes because I'm sure it was just me yelling with just enough musicality to not sound as if I was in pain) enough times for my parents to question if I'd be an opera singer when I grew up.
To this day, music is still is the most dependable thing I have. The heartbreak I'm going through right now? Music is my shoulder to cry on when I need to let it out, my motivator that makes me feel like a total bad ass at life, and my outgoing friend who cheers me up and makes me lose my inhibitions/dance like a nut job. It never lets me down and is always there when I need it.
Because music has always been such a huge part of my life and was my first passion, I had dreamt about being a singer for many years. I wanted to be a rocker chick who could get in front of any crowd like it was no thang.
The only problem was that I was a shy, quiet introvert who couldn't even gather enough courage to sing in front of one person to take lessons, or in front of her own family. I was paralyzed with fear, worrying what people would think of my voice. So, I declined lessons and only sang by myself, occasionally in front of friends if I felt comfortable enough.
Middle school was the first time I really took a risk when it came to letting my voice be heard. One of my school's music teachers wrote a musical and I so badly wanted to be a part of it. After much anxiety and careful thought, I decided to audition for a singing role. Nothing major, I would have settled to just be in the chorus. I remember dramatically practicing "On My Own" from Les Misérables with a friend at her house. She had a much better voice than I did but she was encouraging nonetheless and I felt comfortable singing with her. For whatever reason, I ended up choosing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" as my audition song. *insert crying laughing emoji here* I think it may have been one of the suggested songs, so I didn't just pull it out of my ass (although not totally unlike me if I did). I was a Nervous Nancy up until the very minute of my audition. I don't think I totally bombed it but I remember my voice cracking at one point and it wasn't pretty.
Needless to say, I didn't get a call back. A lot of my friends did and I felt extremely left out, but instead of just not being part of the production at all, I signed up for Make Up Crew to help make people look nice for it. I highly doubt I succeeded at this but at least I was invited to the cast party. God forbid I missed a night of stalking my crush who didn't know I existed.
Fast forward to my first job after college:
I worked in the research department of an investment bank. Despite it being a small, low-key office, I felt completely out of my comfort zone immediately. I was so uncomfortable that it took months for me to even walk down the main hall to the kitchen because I didn't want to be noticed or run into anyone (not normal, but that's a topic for another day). I didn't feel confident working at a financial institution in the slightest. I knew nothing about finance except for the one course I took at Penn State that I had already forgotten about. I didn't talk to anyone in the office unless I was forced to. Instead, I kept to myself, inputting data mindlessly for hours, rarely taking any breaks. I'm sure I was known as the office weirdo but that was fine with me if it meant I wouldn't have to be spoken to much.
Imagine the dread I felt when I was told I had to go to the holiday party and socialize with everyone in the office. Now multiply that times ten for the dread I felt when I was told new employees had to sing karaoke at said party.
Um. . .yeah. Not happening. Hell to the eff no.
I was so set on weaseling my way out of that one until it was show time. A glass of wine deep (or maybe two?) and I was being asked to join the group of new male employees (I was the only young female at the firm, to make matters worse) for a quick shot before a medley of the most typical karaoke songs you could think of. The wine spoke for me (I'm a lightweight): "Why not?" And before I knew it, I'm in a group of young finance bros singing "Don't Stop Believin'" followed by the most awkward rendition of "My Girl," which I decided to sing solo until one of the fine young men, bless his soul, rescued me.
It was quite a show, let me tell ya. People didn't even realize I was able to speak, let alone sing. I couldn't even believe I had the courage to get up in front of everyone and do that. Something inside me wanted to because I knew that no matter what came out of my mouth, it would be a memorable experience.
And that's what life is about.
Throughout my time at that job, I had been doing some promotional marketing and booking for a band that my old boss and mentor started called The Devyl Nellys. In the back of my mind was always the curiosity of whether or not she'd let me sing for the band someday. I had put out feelers and she had seen some social media posts about my love for singing and playing the guitar. There were several times that she brought it up as a possibility but I wasn't sure if it would come to fruition.
Then one day my dream came true.
I had expressed enough interest and took her up on her offer to be a backing vocalist and one February sung in my first show in Hoboken, NJ. Since then, I've sung in a festival and multiple shows. I've even recorded backing vocals on their album!
The point of all of this is that I now can say "fuck you" to fear.
I pushed my fear aside so that now I can get on stage or sing in a quiet recording studio where every bit of my voice is heard, because singing is what I love, and even if I'm not the next Adele, I've decided that it doesn't matter.
I still get nervous and doubt myself and my abilities at times, but my happiness and fulfillment are more important to me than what other people think. Stepping outside of my comfort zone is extremely exhilarating and with each show, I gain more confidence in my musical/performance abilities and my overall self.
It's so important to push yourself to experience discomfort because that is where growth happens. So often we let fear control our lives and this stops us from growing and living our most authentic lives.
Do things that scare the shit out of you, especially if you have a gut feeling that it will bring you joy that few other things will.
It's never worth losing out on that joy because of fear.