The lesson will be private. One-on-one. And the instructor, Mady, is, by all accounts, an incredibly delightful, non-intimidating person. I’ve performed on stages in front of 5000+ person crowds. I’ve spoken to hundreds of thousands of people around the US. I’ve done stand-up comedy on a stage in a country where the material I was performing could have landed me in jail, or worse.
So why am I so nervous about this?
It’s hard to ask for help. I’ve been taught not to. I’ve been told as long as I’ve been able to be told things that the last thing I should ask for is help. Part of this I can blame on my gender, and the expectations I’ve been led to accept because of it, and part of it is a purely American “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality I’ve internalized. Part of it is also likely just plain me-ness. Regardless of where it’s coming from, it’s here. And it’s loud.
Because I have to admit I’m bad at something. I wouldn’t need help if I was good enough, right? I’m good at a bunch of other things, so it would be way easier to just focus on those and not admit that I’m a disaster at this, right? And I know this from experience, because a few weeks ago in my new show I tried to sing a song I wrote for it, and it was, well, a hilarious disaster (not the intention, but hey — I rolled with it. Maybe I’ll post the footage someday, but maybe not, because…).
And that makes me feel vulnerable. And that’s terrifying. The idea of exposing myself, even just to one person (not like that — hell, that’d be easier than this), is more terrifying than getting up on stage in front of thousands doing something I know I can do. I have armor for that. Here, I not only don’t have armor, I have open wounds, and I’m going to be sitting in a room with a near-stranger pointing and poking at them.
This is entirely about singing, but it’s also entirely about anything. Anything that scares us so much we’d rather not acknowledge its existence. Anything we feel but refuse to see, to name. All of the obstacles we create that stand between us and a freer, less-encumbered us.
Brene Brown, from afar, has helped support me in taking this leap, and all the other leaps I take. Amanda Palmer, in a more direct, intimate way, has done the same. And even my soon-to-be-first-ever-singing-instructor has done a lot to make this easier:
I’m still terrified, but I stopped letting that stop me years ago.