The month of December was a whirlwind of finals, friends, driving between Nashville, Dallas and back to Nashville again, beaucoups of brisket tacos, recruitment meetings and avoiding the job search. Back in Nashville now, I can finally sit down and breathe. Brandi Carlile’s “Keep Your Heart Young” serenades me while I write tonight – a fitting song for this post.
My visit over Christmas and New Year’s Eve was the first time I set foot in Texas in just over four months – the longest I have ever been away from home. Just before I left for school in August, I felt a strange certainty that I am meant to continue my life journey and adventures outside of Dallas immediately after I graduate. Naturally, being home again helped old feelings and memories to resurface. One very special memory was my first grade talent show. My talent: singing. My experience: none.
I wanted to perform “Don’t Speak,” a single from No Doubt’s 1995 album, Tragic Kingdom. The song is about the ended relationship between Gwen Stefani and her bassist, Tony Kanal – obviously an appropriate and upbeat song for a 6-year-old to sing at a talent show.
As you may know, this song is actually on the top 10 list for “Worst Songs You Could Perform in an Elementary School Talent Show.” Performing that song would only mean pure embarrassment and an everlasting reputation as that-girl-who-sang-that-break-up-song-in-an-elementary-school-talent-show. (For reference, other students were singing songs by Selena and dancing to bachata.) In my elementary, middle and high school days, I was in the very slim and very pale minority.
A week or two before the talent show, my parents asked me to perform for them. I posed on the brick hearth in our living room while my parents stood waiting for my performance in our neighboring kitchen. One of my older sisters cued the music and I stood, mouth open but unable to sing. She restarted the music a few times and every time I refused to sing. Even as a child, I had a deep-seated fear of performing while people watched.
I couldn’t do it. I refused to do it. Whatever led me to believe I could sing in a school talent show is beyond me, even to this day.
Looking back on this memory, I realize why I was so afraid of performing: most every person has a fear of rejection or humiliation at some level. Singing No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak” would surely separate me from my peers and would also be a never-ending source of embarrassment.
Many years later, being different and noticeable are qualities I appreciate in others and are qualities I now appreciate in myself. Singing “Don’t Speak” may not have been the best idea in that situation, but wearing my lime green cowboy boots, or lilac print pants, or my mod orange winter coat is what separates me from others – something I have come to love. Thankfully, I have friends who are silly and strong enough to support me and my endeavors… even when I’m wearing snakeskin pants.
In the end, I never performed the song. Instead, I took up lime green cowboy boots and sequined dresses.