Today, I faced fear. I surprised a lucky stranger by singing “happy birthday” while strumming away on my ukulele. This occurred in a public place, orchestrated by her wife.
It was scary for me. Music performance has been tangled up with my perfectionism for many years, and I’ve long subscribed to the story that I have a terrible voice. I only know a scattering of chords on the uke, hardly an expert with the skills to make an audience go “wow!” And the combination of singing and strumming.. oy!
I don’t know when I stopped having fun performing. I recall feeling confident and calm at my harp recitals as a child. But as I became more self aware, I disappointed myself. I never could quite be the musician I wanted to be, even though I tried in my studies to be perfect, to hit every note just right. Problem is, I’m just not that good. And I’m kind of lazy, and have many interests beyond music that called to me with a siren song. I wanted to be, want to be, a great musician, and to become this way effortlessly.
I studied harp from the age of 10 all the way through college, and didn’t have the fun as I could have. I squandered years with performance anxiety and by telling myself “I can’t.” I squandered the benefits of my hard work by focusing on what I had not accomplished, how I had failed myself or my teachers in some way.
I’ll never get that time back, but when my coworker asks me for my presence and my song I can say yes. I can shrug my fears aside like an ugly, too-small jacket that clings across the shoulders, and just do it. I can sing and I can smile. To quote the Hokey Pokey, isn’t that what its all about?