I could hear the rumble of the crowd from the narrow alcove just off stage, but I couldn’t bring myself to peek out. We were the last act, the big finish. Suddenly, my jeans felt too tight, my mouth parched.
“Anyone have any water?” I croaked. Someone handed me a juice box. This was a bad idea.
“And now, to wrap up the talent show, we have big treat for you today: The Kosher Kittens!”
We tumbled out of our hiding place, five moms in matching black t-shirts emblazoned with guitars and the words “My Mom Rocks.” All in our 40s, we were hardly kittens; seeing as how our kids all went to a Jewish Day School, the kosher part seemed appropriate.
The drummer started the beat. The bass player joined in, then the two guitars. The lone microphone in the middle of the stage was all mine. I stepped up, wrapped my sweaty palm around it, licked my lips and freaked out.
My daughters’ entire school, plus the teachers and a healthy dose of parents stared up at me on the stage, already swaying to the beat. My 4th grader waved spastically at me from center left; my 7th grader, seated near the back, ducked down and whisper-giggled to her friend. A row of adorable Kindergartners in the front held up signs for us: “You rock!” and “We love the Kosher Kittens!” That was super sweet, but 5-year-olds are a generally forgiving audience. I froze.
Back in the spring, signing up to be a Rock Star for A Day at the school’s auction had seemed such a brilliant idea. I ran around the event that evening convincing friends to join the band with me. I promised them they wouldn’t have to sing – I’d be willing to make the sacrifice, for the good of the school of course, and take on that daunting task. What they didn’t know is that fronting a band had always been a dream of mine, one I’d always been too insecure to make happen. Now might be my only chance to make it come true. It was do or die.
Here’s the catch: I’m not a great singer. I’m not even a good singer, but I love, love, love to sing. This mostly happens in the car or the kitchen or in my head. My oldest daughter has a beautiful voice and my middle one can carry a pretty tune; my husband is practically pitch perfect and the three-year-old is three so anything she sings is cute. Then there’s me with my warble and tin ear and complete lack of range. I love to sing, but I’m really self-conscious about how I sound, that I’m messing up, making people cringe. So I hardly ever sing solo in front of other people and certainly not in front of a crowd.
Which brings me back to center stage.
My band mates were replaying the lead in. The school’s Rock Band director nodded and smiled my way, cuing me and cuing me again. My mouth stayed shut. What if I screwed up the lyrics? What if I sounded horrendous? What if everyone laughed at me? What if I embarrassed my girls? What was I thinking?
Too late to back out now. It was time to find my voice.
The first few notes of “The Best Day of My Life” tiptoed out of my mouth but boomed out through the still too close microphone. My timing was a little off; I forgot some of the words; I couldn’t quite find the beat with my body. I started to sweat. I wanted to run away, but I stayed put. I closed my eyes, willed my brain to catch up and my heart to stop thrashing. Then I opened eyes, opened my mouth and just sang. A few lines in and the kids were singing along. My voice felt warm, the words dancing, my band mates jammin’. In a flash, the song was over, the crowd was going wild and I was laughing along with the rest of the Kosher Kittens.
Being brave is not about being great or even being good. It’s about stepping into a space you’ve always yearned for, one you might not be sure about, and staying in it, no matter how difficult that might be. It’s about fear, and singing or writing or parenting through it and bathing in the elation that follows. It’s about believing you will be received in all the best ways simply because you did the thing you’ve always dreamed of doing, despite the dark specter of failure, despite the naysayers in your head and worrying whether or not you’ll make other people cringe. Being brave is about having the courage to find your voice, even if it’s a little off key.
Go ahead, grab the microphone. Belt it out.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, where writers and bloggers link up with a relevant post. This week’s prompt was: “I’ve never had the courage to…”
This post is also part of the Reverb 14 December daily writing challenge, a series of reflective writing prompts designed to help let go of 2014 and move into 2015 with intention, which also happened to be about bravery.