Why I Sing
On February 20, I did something I hadn’t done in 33 years.
After nearly 30 years in the work world, 13 years of child-rearing, there was a distinct void in my life. I didn’t really know what that was until my therapist pointed it out about a year ago. I was telling her how so often I felt like, to quote Sheryl Crow, a stranger in my own life.
“Every time you come in here, you look tired. People may find you unapproachable and joyless.”
That last word hurt, but I realized that’s what was missing from my life. Joy.
Of course I was tired. When I had my appointment, I’d spent the day getting the kid to school with the usual morning chaos of “lost” shoes and “nothing to wear”, commuting an hour to work, followed by 9 hours of making pixels dance and putting out various web site “fires”, and a 1 1/2 hour commute back home. After my appointment, I could look forward to a joyous evening of making dinner, a run to the store for milk, toilet paper or school supplies, followed by a funfest of cleaning, bill-paying, and listening to kid whining about homework. My husband goes to work at WTF o’clock each morning, and goes to bed by 9, so I only get to see him for about an hour or so a day. After 10 p.m. was when I felt I could finally wind down. I’d surf social media and watch “Full House” and “Friends” reruns until 11 or midnight. Then get up the next morning and do it all over. It was like “Groundhog Day” without the snarkiness of Bill Murray.
But I wasn’t sure where to find joy. Mind you, I love my job and family, but I needed something else.
Last fall, when my daughter was in her school play, a group of us were joking on Facebook how much we’d love to be in one of those middle school productions.
I started thinking, was it really such a crazy idea? Not an actual middle school production, because that would just be creepy, but to be in a play. I was in theater in high school and even when I didn’t get speaking roles, it was a blast.
I’ll let you in on a secret guilty pleasure of mine: I love to sing. Not just quiet humming in the shower, but balls-to-the-wall belting. I do this in the safety of my car, every day to and from my job. There’s something so liberating about belting Aerosmith or Adele at the top of your lungs after spending hours in the veal-fattening pen of cubicles and fluorescent lights. Those who share the road with me should probably be thankful for the existence of high-quality glass for car windows.
I know the reality. I’m not one of those deluded kids on “American Idol” whose parents have been shelling out thousands of dollars on voice lessons, telling their precious baby, “You’re going to be a star”, only to have Simon Cowell crush their dreams, telling them they just don’t have “it”. I miss Simon.
I’ve never had “it” and never will. My dreams of being a actress were replaced with being a web producer. I like to think of design, words, and code as my actors, the Internet my stage, and every launch as Showtime. This is why I love my job.
But still — wouldn’t it be fun to sing outside the confines of my Toyota Camry?
I looked at the community theater web site and saw they had auditions for “Nunsense”. I questioned whether I could handle it in the off chance I got a part. I made the usual excuses of the reasons not to try out. Work, family, age, blah, blah, blah.
And there was just anxiety. What if I just ended up making a complete ass out if myself? What if out of all the people trying out, I was the only one who doesn’t get a callback?
Instead of looking at what I had to lose, I looked at what I had to gain — fun and joy. That would pretty much enhance everything. If I lead a happier, more balanced life, I can be a more productive employee, and be more present for my family.
I decided to go for it. I made my appointment with the general manager of the theater. I picked my audition pieces, something I haven’t done since I was 18. One was a song I’ve known for years, the other was a song from “Nunsense”. I’d never seen the show so I had to do a little research. It looked like a fun show. I downloaded the songs and sheet music. For the next few weeks, every morning on my way to work, and every evening on my way home, I practiced my pieces. I practiced with the music and without.
Sometimes before I practiced, I hesitated in my head. “This is stupid. I’m as deluded as those little turds on ‘American Idol’. I should cancel. It would be a relief really. God knows I don’t need more stress in my life.”
But I’d start singing, and realized I’d regret it more if I chickened out.
The morning of the audition, on 2/20, I thought about cancelling several times. I got to my audition. There was a children’s art class going on in the front room as I headed back to the audition room.
I filled out more forms. They called my name. Unfortunately, I downloaded my sheet music in the wrong keys, and had to sing a cappella. I thought I did ok, but the fingerpainting kids probably thought a stray cat was giving birth in the audition room.
You know that scenario I played out in my head earlier in which out of all the people who tried out, I was the only one who didn’t get a callback? Well, that’s exactly what happened.
After I got the news that I didn’t make the cut, the earth swallowed me up like a dinner roll on Oprah’s plate, and I’m writing this piece from the Great Beyond. Duh, of course I survived. Do I think in hindsight I should have just turned tail? Hell no. As one of my Facebook friends put it, “Auditioning is as good as getting the part – getting it is icing on the cake!l”
Should those “American Idol” rejects give up on their dream, especially now that the show is over? No, but they might want to consider a more stable back-up career. Like computer programming. Or mercenary work.
Maybe you read this expecting some phantasmagoric happy ending where I get the part and everyone wildly applauds. Sorry, kids. Real life doesn’t always have a fairy tale ending of the princess getting her prince. But if there’s anything I’ve learned is you can’t hold your breath waiting for your fairy tale ending, or you’ll miss the fact that the story isn’t over.
Will I try out for the next play? Probably. Being scared is not an excuse. “Gee, what if I make a fool of myself and get rejected?” Been there. Done that. Will I stop singing?
Sorry. Not sorry.