Sunday, February 10, 2013

The shower singer

I rarely sing anymore. Though I list it as a hobby on Facebook, and I still cite it if people ask me what I like to do in my free time, as of the last three years singing is no longer something I partake in regularly.

Usually I don't think much of the fact. Our hobbies and activities of choice change along with our age - we grow out of some, we create others. We can't hold onto everything. If I stopped singing because I wanted to stop singing, there's nothing wrong with that. Change can be a good thing.

Step back for a second. "If I stopped singing because I wanted to stop singing"?

Here's where I steered myself wrong.

At the moment I'm in a state of transition. Whereas in the past I always looked to replace failed relationships with new dating prospects, with the heartbreak that I'm in the process of getting over, instead of looking for someone else to fill the gap right away, I'm trying really hard to remember who I am. Or rather, was.

I don't think I've changed so much. I've gained knowledge and experience through the past several years, been placed in awkward situations and forced to fend for myself because I'm in college. There's no doubt I've grown (emotionally, not physically).

Where I have changed, though, is in what I feel comfortable doing - where my confidence lies. The way that college is structured, I've been made to think I only have one expertise: journalism. I can write, therefore I am accomplished. But what about everything else that I've done in my life? Do I just forget those things because I'm not studying them, because I'm in a cramped and communal atmosphere that pervades college dorm rooms and campus life?

After all, that's how I feel in this place sometimes. Completely surrounded and thus stifled. The other day, on the phone with my dad, I had to talk to him about some issues that were bothering me. I knew that had anyone around me heard what I said it would come off as immature or dramatic. My dad, being aware of the context, wouldn't see it that way. As I started to speak, a girl began walking right behind me - within six inches of my back - and I felt incredibly uncomfortable. When she had gone, a man started walking directly to my side. In other words, I couldn't speak without being heard by someone other than the intended listener. And even though I didn't know these people, nor would I likely ever see them again, it was the idea of my private thoughts and choices being public that bothered me.

It's for a similar reason that I've stopped doing something I love, something that I've always believed is an important part of me.

I no longer sing. And by "no longer," I basically mean never. I never sing.

Since my first quarter in college, I've never felt quite right being open with my singing voice in the environment I was living in. Being in a dorm means thin walls. You can hear everything your neighbors are doing. In addition to feeling rude by singing when the people next door would likely prefer peace, I also hate to feel like my voice is being judged by others. Since I was 18, these fears have kept me from regularly singing in my room.

I tried to hum in the shower at my old dorm. It seemed a casual enough alternative. It prevented people from knowing who was singing - humming is nondescript enough that it can't really be attributed to a particular person - and it still gave me an outlet for the music playing in my head.

It wasn't enough.

The lack of singing started to take a toll on me in general. I'm sure there were other issues stressing me out, but the emotional outlet that was once belting a Broadway showtune could no longer be done. I was holding myself back from a catharsis and it took its toll.

Even when I'd return home for breaks, I'd never return back to the old routine. I used to sing in the shower almost every night. I'd sing walking around my house. I'd sing in the privacy of my room.

Now I rarely sing at home. Occasionally if I'm inspired I will, but it has lost its regularity to the point that it now almost feels unnatural.

Singing for me, however, was never unnatural. I've written about it before and I stand by my belief that a love for singing has always been in me. I won a singing contest when I was a toddler, I've performed in choirs and taken private voice lessons since then. I love musical theater. My passion for voice has surfaced in many ways, there's no denying it.

That being said, as of late my passion for singing has been burrowing into the ground. It's in the basement of my old dorm, wishing I'd have the confidence to use it despite the worry of being judged by others.

Well I'm in a different place now. My life is changing and so are some of the little pieces of minutia that I didn't care about before. A consequence of these changes is that I want to rediscover who I am when I'm not saddled by inhibitions and unconfident depression. Part of that person, the one who didn't worry as much, was that she loved to sing. Even when people put her down, she never stopped loving it.

That's real passion, that's a hobby that can't be replaced.

So I've promised myself something.

In the recent past I feared singing in the shower because I didn't want to annoy anyone. I didn't sing in my room because I was worried about being shamed. But who cares about those things anymore? If I'm annoying, I will surely be notified. If I am terrible, I doubt anyone will have the gall to tell me so.

And regardless of how others perceive me, the important thing is how I perceive myself.

When I sing, I feel stronger and better able to take on the world. But more than that, I notice that for the first time in a while I can see myself for who I am. Those personality traits were silenced (literally) out of fear, but never again.

So if you hear singing coming from the shower any time soon, you'll know it was me. And you can complain all you want, I'll never feel ashamed. I will have no regrets. Hopefully I'll have my catharsis.

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