I love to sing. Usually it happens unconsciously, my voice will start a song regardless of where I am or whether I know the lyrics.. (much to the discontent of my company that has to listen to the few same lines over and over again). Unfortunately something is the matter: as soon as singing becomes about the actual singing, I freeze and my stomach goes into a frenzy.
I cannot sing when someone asks me to; I’ve never been able to do karaoke; when I had group singing lessons in theatre school I threw up every time and never made it into the circle; when people gather around a musical instrument to sing I cannot join. Why is this unfortunate? Because I love to sing! When my dad asked me to perform a song with him for my mom’s 50th I would’ve loved to say yes! When my cousin played his ukulele by the pool that holiday in France I would’ve loved to sing along with the others. How many times haven’t I looked longingly at youngsters gathered around a guitar, singing. And then there’s my dream of singing jazzy lovesongs up on some small stage for the entertainment of others..
As always the explanation comes down to the familiar phenomenons of high expectations and fear. I am afraid of not singing well enough, of hitting a false note and making a fool of myself. And how could I not be when I want to be nothing less than a reincarnation of Carol King, Eva Cassidy and Sarah Vaughan in one? It’s impossible and stupid; a bar set so high that it sentences me to eternal silence.
It may come as no surprise that this trip is about overcoming some of my fears (for example, I’m afraid of travelling alone; being robbed or worse; having made the wrong decision for travelling rather than building a career), and that it caters generously in this need. One particular happy night in Tafi del Valle (hostel Nomade!) after wine, good food, great company and a vibe that was warm and welcoming, I went to say goodnight to the lady running the hostel. I found her sitting at the communal table with a girl and guy, the latter playing a guitar (…). Here’s what happened: they asked me to sing, and though I wanted to say NO I CANT, I decided to accept the invitation. I sang. They could hear. The man and I sang together, songs by Carole King, Eva Cassidy and other big names, while the lady from the hostel sat listening with closed eyes and a smile on her lips. The next morning at breakfast some people asked who had been singing, and then thanked me for it (Oh what bliss!). The first step in the journey to overcome my fear of singing in public had been made!
Of course it did not take long to discover that journeys like these are long and not paved with succes. Encouraged by my small victory in Tafi del Valle and by yet another funpacked night in a dusty town (Libertador), my friend and I went into a karaokebar. The place -bathed in blue light- was filled with Argentinians singing their hearts out. Determined to keep at my learning curve and to do as the Romans do, I tried my luck at a song. It was horrible. I couldn’t keep time, nor the right key, I faltered, the pauses in my singing became longer: ultimately I threw in the towel halfway through the song. My friend saved me with a round of applause and a foul drink to drown my sorrows. Recovering from this ordeal, I had an epiphany. So, still at the karaoke bar, I grabbed a napkin and scribbled down my thoughts, convinced they were that important and should by no means be forgotten..Of course I was under influence (of wine and other drinks), which no doubt caused this sense of urgency..
Here’s what I read the next morning, in handwriting that got increasingly chaotic:
“maybe life’s lessons are about learning that you’re not as good as you thought you’d be, not as slim as you think you ought to be and not as pretty in pictures as you want to be. About being fine with that, for life is not about the reality of these desires. It’s about the people you meet, the adventures you have, the laughs you laugh, the love you love. When travelling I’m reminded of this every day, I just need to open my eyes to the reminders. Remember not to be held back by fear because fear is what will stand in the way of desires being reality. The hotelowner said that the only thing in life without solution is death. There you go. In this life nothing is without solution, not even fear.”
Pretty good for a drunkie eh? After karaoke we danced at a club and, when our new-found Argentinean friends went to the afterparty, we stumbled to bed. The night was life itself: an adventure with plenty of laughs, new friends, and love for my good old friend. And a lesson learned of course: when you fall down, get up and try again. Karaoke in Bolivia anyone?