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On Failing (Very) Publicly

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Image by Lukas Bieri from Pixabay

Last week, I did what I've been saying I'd do for a while now. I performed on stage, in an open-mic night out in Dalston. I went all the way to Dalston because my voice teacher lives there, and that's where he runs his very own open-mic evening every two weeks.

For various reasons, it took about 2.5 hours from when the open-mic started until I went on stage. In that time I heard some people having technical difficulties, some people just not knowing how to sing, and some people being absolutely incredible. There's a lot of talent in London, did you know that?

Another thing that I noticed is that most people on stage were about half my age. They were teenagers or twenty-somethings, with their guitars slung on their backs and the dreams of going big not quite crushed out of them yet. It made me self-conscious, and it made me feel old. Needless to say, my anxiety levels were sky-high that evening.

But, despite my anxiety, I didn't run away. I considered it. I really did. It would have been easier to tell my teacher that I'm not feeling great, and maybe try again another night. But my friend came with me all the way from SW London, and I had a sitter booked and everything. So I just went on.

It started terribly. I couldn't find the right key (probably because of the anxiety). I heard I was off-key, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to correct it. It was a disaster. About half-way through the song, I finally found the right key, and stumble through the rest of the song. I've seen the video. The second half is not as bad as I thought it was while I was on stage.

On stage, it felt humiliating, and it took forever. On stage, I felt my years. On stage, I could hear the young talented people in the audience laughing at the old lady who doesn't know when to quit. And I re-lived the failed auditions, the comments from class-mates, the insistence of my parents that I find "a real career". Just in case.

The next day, I went to my voice lesson. My teacher was sure I wouldn't come. I told him he won't get rid of me that easily. This performance didn't do justice to what I know I can do with my voice. Clearly, I need more experience performing in front of an audience. But I'm not done, because only doing things you know you're good at is boring.

What's clear to me now, however, is that this is not going to be my career. Not because I gave a poor performance. Not because of the talented kids. It's not about the failure. It's about the passion. My teacher told me about some of the talented kids that were on the stage that night. They're all there because they're determined to improve and because they have a passion for performing and for music. I love music, don't get me wrong. But do I have enough passion to go out every two weeks to Dalston to perform to gain experience and connections? No.

What I do love, what I do have a passion for, is my writing. I've had good and bad feedback on my writing, and never once did that change the way I feel about my stories. I do have enough passion to write every day, to seek out courses and workshops and writers' groups. I do have enough passion to keep editing the same friggin book over and over until I feel it's good enough to go out into the world. I know that until my writing is out in the world, it's a little bit like singing in the shower, but, hey, you're reading this, right? Right?

If you're still here, I really do appreciate it. And I would love to hear from you. But if you're not, if I've lost all of my readers due to rambling or distracting incoming messages, I would still write another post later this week. Because that's what I do. I write.


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