I’m not crazy, though these voices have driven me close. The voices are those of singers: executing complicated, colorful maneuvers of melody, like aerobatic fighter planes, loud and fast and flawless – and frustrating beyond belief.
The really teeth-gritting, wall-punching part is that all along I’ve felt beckoned, as if the voices were imploring me sweetly to join their ranks, to soar with them, as if they don’t know the song in my heart is buried half a mile down my esophagus, keeping nervous company with the frog in my throat and the cat that’s got my tongue.
All my life I’ve wanted to sing. But I’ve been petrified; whispering voices stalking through my mind: I can’t do it I’m not good enough I’ll never learn.
It seems that somehow during my early years, as the obliviously self-confident sunshine of infancy began to cool off, it occurred to me that I might not be the star I thought I was. In fact, my so-called singing voice might be downright dissonant – and thus at the tender age of five, when I found myself onstage with music playing, my silent face turned redder and hotter than some kind of nose-picker or bed-wetter, in front of the whole haughty preschool.
I became musically mute. It would be years before anyone was able to get a note out of me.
Yet even in my own silence, I was mystified by the comparable silence I saw in others.
There was the flustered silence of the pretty girl I befriended in grade school, who one day slid me a folded paper that asked, had I ever noticed her physical disability. I didn’t know how to react. Was it rude to respond with a yes? Why did it matter?
Today she is one of the most eloquent and charismatic young women I know, and yes, I have noticed her physical disability.
And then there was the almost hysterical silence of the small boy who I watched, my first year of high school, tap-tapping his fingers on the desk that dwarfed him. He was waiting for something. It was the bigger boys, and when they stampeded past, one threw back his head and let loose a glob of yellow spit onto the small boy, and there was laughter and high-fives all around.
I saw the small boy smile weakly and wipe his face. His silence has never left me.
There also was the sheepish silence of that long-haired student in the back of my math class, who never quite seemed to understand the assignments. He appeared perpetually paralyzed, too tongue-tied to ask for help.
I suppose we each have our own personalized devil factory inside of us, manufacturing personalized fears.
Determined to overcome mine, I found myself a year ago knocking at the door of the man who, in a fit of reckless ambition, I had called for vocal instruction. He led me through set after set of increasingly simplistic musical scales, before finally taking me at my word that I really didn’t know anything at all.
After a year, my relentlessly patient instructor urged me to audition for the school choir. I resisted – for a time.
As it turns out, I’ll be singing in my first-ever choir concert on Oct. 20. I don’t feel ready. I feel as if I’ll never quite understand the assignments, as if I have some physical disability that prevents me from singing properly, as if all the other kids in the class are spitting on me behind my back.
But I know I’m not alone in being afraid, and this time, I won’t be silenced.
Emerson Hardebeck, a senior at Timberline High School and editor-in-chief of Timberline’s student newspaper “The Blazer,” is a member of The Olympian’s Board of Contributors. He can be reached at email@example.com.