I spent the first three years of my life as the youngest of three. Because there was an iffiness about my ability to survive the community rallied around me and my mother. Over steaming cups of tea, they closely watched for signs that I was thriving.
It is no surprise, then, that I was a performer from early on. From my first smile, first steps, first word, I was eager to reassure my caretakers. Could I sing? Dance? Recite poetry with feeling? Draw pictures? Do somersaults? Of course! It was expected of me – I was a miracle baby and I proved it early and often.
The problem is, I really have no talent for music or dancing or art or athletics. The big reveal is that I have only discovered this recently. All throughout my schooling I enthusiastically signed up for everything – choir, volleyball, drama, debate. I was the kid with the shining face saying “Pick me!” Often, I was not chosen, which puzzled me and sometimes hurt my feelings.
Recently, I was allowed to join one of the nearby University’s choirs. I was shocked! Me? After all these years?
All around me are bright-eyed, shiny-haired students who are enrolled in the music department. They’ve got rhythm, perfect pitch, great music memories, and lovely voices. I am humbled to learn every week that I have limitations. I keep plugging away, determined not to undermine our group efforts to produce beautiful music. The young people are very understanding and kind to the beaming, thrilled-to-be-here white-haired lady in their midst. They are patient with me as I look over to see what phrase we are meant to be singing or listen to their pitch and try to copy it.
It is not totally one-sided, I tell myself. Enthusiasm and feeling the mood of the music come easily to me and are important to our success in delighting the audience. My contribution may not be equal, but most often, it is good enough.
I hope that I am at least an inspiration to the gifted students who accept me. I hope they are aware that the joy of learning keeps us young. Above all, I need to heed the words of Pete Seeger:
“The easiest way to avoid wrong notes is to never open your mouth and sing. What a mistake that would be.”