When I was in the second grade, I tried out for the school choir. I remember my brother singing “when the snakes crawl at night” or something like that. He had a nice voice. He was accepted. I tried singing, “Oh Canada,” and I think I forgot the words due to stage fright. Needless to say, I was not.
But in those days, singing was something we did. A lot. My father loved going for drives. He was a shift worker, and I remember him waking us up frequently after his 3-11pm shift, loading us all in the car, and driving. We would just fall back to sleep in the car. I didn’t have trouble sleeping in the car as a child.
When we went during the day, however, he would play his music – Everly Brothers, or John Denver, or something – and we would all sing along… okay, my mom never sang, but the rest of us did. It was a lot of fun. Since I was never abused while in the car, and since I never had to look at anyone, it was a safe place for me. Until I started to get motion sickness, car rides (amusement parks, and campgrounds as well, for the same reason) were the places where I could just be.
Just be a child. Not broken, or afraid, or disgusted, or feeling there was something terribly wrong with me. These were the places I had a good relationship – even with my father. Even now, those songs bring back memories in which I was feeling safe, and happy (not a normal feeling for me in any other part of life.)
My younger brother had a terrible voice! I mean it. He didn’t really sing, he just talked – loudly – in a completely inharmonious tune. I certainly preferred the rides where he didn’t come along… mean, I guess, but both my brother and father had really nice voices, and mine was okay – I even made the choir for third grade, and every year after that until I gave it up around the eleventh grade.
I really liked singing.
Then I moved away, and still I sang with my son all the time. I sang with the daycare. I even joined the church choir. I loved singing. I didn’t have a great voice. I would never have been asked to sing a solo, or anything, but it was fine for choir – and I really, really liked singing.
Then there was that one year. We weren’t married at the time. Both of us were singing in the choir. My (husband) also sang and played guitar on the worship team at church. That year, the person standing beside me said I had a nice voice, and should sing with the worship team. I guess she mentioned that to him, for a few days later, he asked me to sing with him in the hallway of the church – no one else was there. He was working there at the time, and I went to help him fold bulletins or something.
The problem was, I had a cold. I had a bad cold, and could hardly talk let alone sing. But I was trying to do things in spite of my anxiety (no matter how much people encourage that, it has always been a really bad idea for me) and so I sang. Of course, with my cold, I was out of tune – and couldn’t get it despite my best efforts. He never asked me to sing with him again, and from that moment on – though I knew the reason I couldn’t sing well then was due to my cold – I never had confidence in singing with people again.
One failure, mixed in with years of success. One failure, and I have never been able to overcome it. I have joined the choir since, but I tend to sing very quiet – just because. I am still afraid to sing. I still have no confidence in my voice – and that very lack of confidence has made it so much harder to do well after. One failure, mixed with years of success – and that is what defines me.