Finding My Place
Finding My Place
I woke up this morning and mulled over the events of the last few months. Sometimes, albeit indulgent to say, I surprise myself. Not in the sense that I look in the mirror and say, "Wow, you look especially good today." That hasn't come to that point yet, thank goodness, and feel free to smack me if it does.
It's more in the sense that I do something that, looking back, seems frighteningly outgoing. It usually involves the participation in anything that had the potential to embarrass me on a large scale. I can hardly picture being a part of it, and it always feels a little surreal to know that I was brave enough to put myself out there.
My Aunt and Uncle’s December wedding, in particular, was what I was thinking about. A year ago I agreed to do all the music for them. The task wasn’t anything outrageous--about nine songs, seven played and two sung--but I’d never really had anyone counting on me to perform to a certain standard before.
The memories of that day are fast-paced and blurry, but there was an instance in particular that has stuck in my mind, because when I was playing the pieces at the piano, I was on edge. My fingers were fumbling, my eyes were wheeling around, trying to find purchase on the sheets of music, a note or two or three that I could comprehend. I played chords to save face, stringing each song together to the best of my ability. According to everyone I talked to, they didn't notice how poorly I was doing, but I knew.
I was grasping at straws, it felt, moments away from failing miserably. Then the time came for me to sing. My shoulders loosened, my fingers easily found their footing on familiar ground, and my mouth opened into the first notes smoothly, without any apprehension.
It was then that I realized singing had become my security. Whereas before the uncertainty of singing before an audience has frightened me to no end, caused cartwheels in my stomach and many a recital-morning breakfast to go half-eaten, all the sudden it was my comfort. My fallback. Old reliable.
My voice recital a few days prior was similar. I was doing a piano piece that I'd learned for the wedding and my own original song. Leading up to the time where I sat down to play Kiss the Rain, the piano piece, I was nervous, shaky, doubting myself and my abilities to recall the notes. It went well, up until the end, which I fumbled.
But when it was time for me to sing Long Way Round, my original, there it came for the first time: a smaller, less pressing version of what I'd come to know as assurance. I knew I was safe. On solid ground, familiar territory. Nothing about singing was new to me, and nothing about it, suddenly, was quite so scary.
That's surreal, let me tell you. It's a feeling that I will remember and carry with me the rest of my life, because at the wedding, in those few seconds that I started in on Make You Feel My Love and let the words flow from my mouth with two hundred people watching, I felt for the first time that whole half-hour that I knew exactly what I was doing. After eight years of voice lessons, and fifteen-plus performances in that time, it's not a feeling you take lightly. It's something you revel in and play back, over and over and over, because suddenly you have certainty that what you're doing is what you do best.
This brings me to some exciting news.
This year I’ve been given the opportunity to record a few of my original songs. I'm going to put them on an EP, and then release them to the public.
I'm not anticipating any fanfare, or groundbreaking sales. I don't expect to be the next Taylor Swift or Lana Del Rey or even Alison Sudol, from A Fine Frenzy, whose success has been on a much smaller but still tangible scale.
How is musical success measured, anyway? By the number of albums you sell? By the amount of people that say they wish you were their best friend? By the amount of money sitting, untouched, in your bank account?
I don't think so. All those things are nice, I suppose. Necessary indicators, even, as to your level of commercial appeal. I don't aspire to be commercial, though. I don't want to be universally loved or hated or known. I just like the idea of a few people around my age turning up the music on their iPhones, sticking their earbuds in, and listening to me. To what my songs have to say. I like the idea of somebody standing over a sink of dishes, as I myself have done in the past, and humming my melody lines under their breath.
My songs are simple. They are straightforward, concise, a bit wistful. They are mine, and until now they haven’t reached past the confines of a few dozen people in a church on a December afternoon. All I want is for them to go a bit further, to reach more, and it’s going to rest solely in my hands to make them do that.
I can, though. I know that now. My early-morning reflection on a harried performance at a church has told me as much. In all of that chaos, I found my serenity.
I am finally ready to be heard.