“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.”
What are you so afraid of, anyway?
Singing a wrong note? Missing an entrance? Being out of tune?
So what if you do? So what if you are?
What happens then?
Does someone die?
Does the composer rise from the grave and materialize before you, cursing your name, your voice, your career?
Have you ruined art?
“You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.”
You love singing. More than anything in this world.
Do you remember when you were little–before you knew what all those words in a foreign language and dots on the staff meant?
Do you remember how you used to go in the backyard, all alone, and you would sing about the leaves and the birds and the dirt and the bugs and the rocks and the pavement and the sun and the sky and the moon and the fence and the light and the water and the dog…
Do you remember that you didn’t care whether or not it sounded good?
Do you remember what you thought if someone heard?
Your first thought was to stop, giggle to yourself, and then carry on as if the possibility of being overheard wasn’t embarrassing but exciting?
Do you remember when you got a bit older, you used you to sit in your room, door shut tight, crouched over your choir music, studying and singing for hours on end?
It wasn’t easy to learn the part. But you weren’t concerned.
Do you remember that it wasn’t a matter of if you were ever good… you would practice until you got there.
“Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.”
Then you went to school, and you learned what all those black dots on the staff meant. You learned the meaning of those strange words on the page.
And it was great to know things. It was good.
Somewhere along the way, you became convinced that making a mistake meant something bigger than just.. making a mistake. You thought, all of a sudden, that your mistake was a statement on you. On your dedication, your preparation, your talent, your gift.
You forgot to just sing.
“Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.”
Are you really all that different from the little girl singing to herself in the backyard?
Two decades older, two academic degrees later.. a lot of knowledge and a lot of songs sung.
What has changed?
“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
This is my prayer for you tomorrow, when you walk into the room and sing your voice jury: that you remember that you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t even have to be good.
You don’t have to be anything at all, but the little girl in the backyard who loved to sing.
No, loves to sing.
She still does. And always will.