Sing Free. Is my journey your journey as well?
I have been told that I often came across as a confident girl. My parents were role-models for strength, determination, and hard work, and like them, I valued these qualities highly. As a young teenager, I pushed myself hard, and was often accused of being an over-achiever, sometimes to my own detriment. I began teaching adult-health classes at the age of seventeen and was often the youngest person in the class. Soon after, I began volunteering as a fire-fighter, and with search and rescue, I was working as a paramedic by the age of twenty, and by was twenty-three I was teaching first-aid, health and safety programs for five different agencies, had my own consulting business, and was involved in organizing a number of large community events. I share this tidbit about myself, because as I explore concepts of authentic self-expression and connected singing, I see that this time of my life demonstrates some important truths that may be helpful to others as they explore their own identity as a singer.
Here is my hidden truth. As comfortable as I appeared taking a leadership role in many aspects of my work and community life, there was a really big part of me that wanted to be invisible. I was publicly seen for sure, but for the most part people saw what I wanted them to see. Usually I was in a uniform, or had a role to perform, perform being the perfect word for what I did. I would show up confidently, and ready for action, securely hidden behind my costume, title, or job, playing the part to the best of my ability. I was happy enough, but something was missing for me.
It wasn't until I became a mother and chose to stay home with two young daughters, did things start to shift. First, with the change in my work situation, I had little to hide behind. Second, in order to show up for my children as I wanted to, I felt a need to be an authentic guide. I didn't want my daughters to grow up as superficial beings, and this required me to explore where I was being fake in my own life. As I looked back I could see how often I had been insincere, and was aware that I was very self-protective.
When my daughters were babes, I decided to join a choir. I had always enjoyed singing, and even had a spell where I regularly sang karaoke in my early twenties, but this choir was new a experience for me. Singing in a group, I was expected to openly share and connect my voice with the other members of the choir - raw, unpracticed, and vocally naked. It was terrifying.
My friend and fellow alto, who stood beside me in choir for four years, has told me she never clearly heard my voice the entire time we were in choir together. I was a very timid singer, held back by thoughts and feelings of vulnerability, judgement, comparison, and somewhere deep, the questions around whether sharing my real voice would contribute in any positive way to the people around me. I had willingly walked into burning buildings, climbed under smashed and overturned vehicles to aid and extricate people inside, and taught groups of hundreds of people, but was to afraid to make a honest sound that could be heard by others. How ironic.
In the 18 years since I joined that choir, I've had the opportunity to talk to hundreds of people who share a similar story. Outwardly they manage their lives with confidence, but ask them to sing, or speak publicly, and they shrink. Those feelings of vulnerability, judgement, and comparison are as real for them as they were for me. I've learned is that the unwillingness to express ourselves openly and sincerely, if left unexplored, can leave a person feeling restless, unhappy, or disconnected.
To clarify, I am not talking about the actual skill of singing or public-speaking. What I am questioning is whether our willingness (or lack thereof) to use our voice and to really be heard, (in the way that you are when you sing) relates to our willingness to show up authentically in all areas of our lives, public or private.
Can we believe our voice is worthy of being heard, not because we want accolades or affirmation from others, but because we owe it to ourselves to show-up fully and authentically, in spite of the potential judgement, comparison, or even ridicule we may face for doing so?
For me singing played a major part in my personal journey towards free self-expression as it gave me a context through wish I could look at those areas of my life I had been hiding from. During this journey I feel honoured to be witness to personal transformation in others as well, and am excited about sharing some of the insights and revelations gleaned over the years, in my upcoming blogs.
If you are a reluctant, timid, or even terrified singer, but recognize there is a song in you that needs to be sung, I invite you to join me for this journey as together we explore concepts related to singing, self-expression, and who it is we carry into the world. If you are a confident vocalist, but feel there is something missing in the experience of singing, there will be content in the months ahead that may make you look at singing in a fresh and honest way.
Welcome to the Sing Free Blog- Cast.