In a state of frustration, I yelled at my singing teacher, “My voice just can’t sing like that!”
About six weeks earlier, a friend had called and asked if I’d sing at her wedding. The voice in my head said, ‘No, are you crazy? Of course I can’t sing at your wedding!’
I loved to sing and we’d been to karaoke a number of times while we were both living in Tokyo several years earlier. But singing at her wedding? That was crazy. Singing was a daydream, fantasy thing for me, more suited to other people with real singing talent.
I would have politely declined the flattering invitation, but the never-happy-no-matter-what-you-do voice in my mind said, ‘You’re a coach and you are always coaching people to do the things they’re afraid of. If you don’t do this then you’re a fraud!’
Whoa! A fraud? I knew feeling like a fraud would be even harder for me to live with than the fear of looking like a fool, so I said to my friend, ‘Okay, I’d be happy to sing at your wedding.’ I think she believed me.
After I hung up the phone, I just stood there, not quite sure what to do with myself. I was stunned and even felt nauseated as I played out all of the possible embarrassing scenarios involving singing at a wedding. Who was I kidding? I was not a good singer. She must have been desperate when she asked me to sing; I must have been arrogant to think I could.
This was a moment of choice. I could call my friend back and tell her I wasn’t feeling comfortable with the idea of singing. She would understand. I, however, would be less understanding because I knew the truth: If I said “no”, I would be running away because I was afraid. So instead of picking up the phone, I went to my computer and searched for singing teachers in my area.
The singing teacher I found was wonderful, though you wouldn’t have thought so from the way I’d just yelled at her. My friend had chosen the song Amazing Grace and though I’d been to several singing lessons already and had practised endlessly, my voice kept breaking at the end of the second line whenever I sang it in my singing teacher’s way. My voice didn’t break like that when I did it my way. If I messed up the performance, I would feel so embarrassed! I was annoyed at myself for having agreed to sing at all.
When I yelled, “My voice just can’t sing like that!” without even flinching, my teacher shot back at me, ‘It can and it will.’
I was stunned by her conviction and her unwavering faith in my ability to sing. Speechless, I thought, ‘She must know something I don’t.’
I surrendered. I listened as she explained the breaking in my voice was due to a lack of practice. My vocal chords were stronger up high and down low, but the middle was rarely used so it was weak. We practised scales regularly (they actually do have a purpose!). I also practised at home and in the car. Every moment in between, I did my best to have faith that it was working.
By the day of the wedding, my voice was no longer breaking. I still felt nervous, but I was as ready as I was ever going to be.
An honest appraisal of my singing at the wedding is that it was okay. I received some wonderful compliments from several people later in the day and the bride was happy. It was a beautiful wedding and a privilege to have played a role. Even though I knew my singing could have been better, it didn’t matter. The result didn’t really matter to me. All that mattered was who I had been and how I felt.
I felt free.
I’d taken on my internal battle and I’d won!
Everything I have created since has occurred in the trajectory created by that moment. It’s how life works. Every time I take myself on, no matter how scary, and regardless of the outcome, a new trajectory for the rest of my life is created.