My name is called and I step on stage. My friends have had their turns, and the mood is festive. I’ve never sung karaoke, and the idea of singing off key and thoroughly humiliating myself in front of people I know is mortifying.
But I get up on stage and belt out my rendition of Duran Duran’s ‘A View To A Kill.’ I let the music draw me in and focus on the lyrics on the screen before me (really?! that’s what the words are?), and I sing.
Badly. No, like seriously, cringingly badly. I am trying to sing, for reasons unknown to me, an octave below my normal pitch, and below what even Simon LeBon sang in the song. A friend records it, oh joy. Really, I have no business ever holding a microphone again.
And yet, my friends cheer. Perhaps not the singing. Perhaps it’s the fact that I was done. But nonetheless, I step off stage not covered in tomato mush. I survive. More importantly, I had fun.
Six months later, as part of my graduation semester,I was to give a thirty-minute lecture and give a twenty minute reading from my creative thesis. These were things I needed to do, to prove myself worthy of earning a degree. High-pressure stuff. And yet, I knew I could do it. I was well-prepared, had rehearsed almost to the point of memorization. I had watched my predecessors do these same things, marveled at their poise and polish. And now I was ready to fake that same confidence.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the podium. The people in the crowd at the karaoke bar six months before—friends and strangers both–had applauded the fact that I had dared to put aside my fears and sang. I had survived performing in public doing something I had no talent for. The lecture and the reading? Those I knew. There was no reason to fear sharing that skill. Sure, I had jitters, worries that something would go wrong. But I also knew that, no matter how badly things went, I could do no worse than singing off-key in public.
You see, what fueled my apprehensions was my pride. I allowed this imaginary idea of this character that I thought I needed to portray control me. I feared that messing up would shatter that image. I was too proud to realize that my harshest critic was me. I’m sure other performers had messed up their songs–flubbed the words, missed a note–but I sure didn’t notice, not while I was busy having fun and cheering them on. Karaoke helped me put my pride in its place, reducing its over-inflated sense of self to a more appropriate level.
So if I find myself with another public speaking engagement, and my nerves are strung so tautly that I’m afraid they’ll snap, look for me at the closest karaoke bar, getting over myself.