Like many performers, I have fantasized about what I would say if I had the honor of accepting an award- a Tony, a Grammy, an Oscar, you name it.  That moment when the stars seem to align and other people value you the way you wish.

I remember, when I was in elementary school, I asked my mom what my special thing was. I explained to her that one friend was great at soccer, another friend was a beautiful dancer, but I didn’t know what I was good at.  And, I wanted to know. I wanted to feel special about something.  My mom didn’t list a million wonderful qualities or force my interest in a specific direction. She said something to the extent of, “One day, you will know.”

And one day, that moment did come.  I randomly decided to perform in a musical, the lead quit, and the directors had us sing in front of each other to replace her.  Everyone sang. So, when it came to me, even though I was rather shy, I sang. And, all of a sudden, I heard something that I’d never noticed before…. When I sang, my voice sounded like a SINGER.  And, from that moment forward, I worked toward embodying the dream that had awakened in me.

Now, as I continue to make this dream a reality, I think of the little girl who sang in front of the mirror, holding a pretend microphone, imagining herself wearing California Barbie’s green palm tree earrings… embarrassing, but true.  The girl who was so painfully aware that she didn’t know what she was good at and felt that everyone ELSE was something special. And, I am grateful that I found the music in me.

Still the question comes to mind, what if I don’t make it?  And, to that I ask- What is making it?  Is it getting that Grammy? Is it having millions of fans applaud you or buy your music?  Because, what if those things do happen, and you are still unhappy?  To me, “making it” is waking up each day and giving myself the opportunity to sing and create. Making it is about how I spend my time. While external acknowledgement is exciting, rewarding, and helps pay the bills, at the end of the day, it is not about that. When I can look at myself in the mirror and say, “I am doing what I love with my life,” I have made it.

I don’t think we should wait for other people to nominate us to be what we want to be. I think, if we don’t nominate ourselves, no one else will. It is like hoping to get a role in a show, but not showing up at the audition…  We can give our acceptance speeches to ourselves when we look in the mirror and accept ourselves for our strengths and weaknesses that make us who we are.  And, we certainly can thank deserving people in our lives whenever we have the chance.

So, here is my acceptance speech, as of today:

(I’m wearing an amazing dress and don’t trip up the stairs on the way to the microphone… Some person hands me an object that will be placed on my piano when I get home. I step up to the microphone and take in the cheering fans. Tears well up in my eyes. And I begin…)

“Thank you so much for this moment.  I am grateful that you recognize my hard work, passion, and commitment to myself and to my music.  Thank you to my teachers, singers who have inspired me, (agent, manager, people who made this possible, fans), and to my friends and family who have always listened and who have been a part of my journey. Thanks to my parents and grandparents for reminding me that I am something special, even before I knew it.”

(the play-out music begins and I am escorted offstage…)

Please feel free to comment below and post your own acceptance speech here if you like :)

The Thing About….STANDING

I played the guitar in a performance standing up for the first time.  Have I performed for years standing up as a singer? Sure.  But, with a guitar, this is a whole new adventure.

I thought that standing would be too hard- how can I see my hand to make the chord changes, how can I hold the guitar and play it…..  Too many things to think about. Then, a few months ago, I went to my first open mic. The room was freezing. I started to shiver. My teeth began chattering. But, I wanted to sing, so I did….

Before I knew it, the guitar starts bouncing on my knees- my legs are shaking so much that there is literally a rhythmically-timed airspace between my lap and the guitar. And I wonder, am I cold or am I nervous?  And from that place I sang the song. Well, I got through it- I sang, but I didn’t SING. So, I decided, I had to stand. Then, if my legs tremble, whether due to weather or the jitters, my guitar will not bounce on my lap and maybe I will be able to SING.

So, there I stood recently, my first performance of 2012, mouth to the mic, strumming away, song memorized, and I realized wow- I can see people- because when I sit with a music stand in front of me, there is this lovely bubble of insulation that seems to guard from anything outside me, my sheet music, and my guitar.  And now, I am looking out and I can see people watching me.  And strangely, for me, never once did I wonder- Do they like me? Do they like my song? …and all of the other pervasive thoughts that lead down the path to quaking knees and flitting butterflies….Never once. Instead, I thought, wow- I didn’t look at my hand on the neck- I found that chord by feel- and wow- I am singing my own song. And, wow- I am standing.

About a year ago, I decided to challenge myself to play an original song in public. And I did.  It has been quite a journey for me to sing my thoughts aloud, as I rarely share my views with people I don’t know. This is not the case when singing in front of strangers…. But it came down to this- I need to sing. So, I did.

SING. That is what the little voice has always said when I shut off the interfering chatter and the disruptive judgment, guessing about things that I have no control of- like what you think. And I discovered that it doesn’t matter. Because, if I want to sing, I will. And, if you want to listen, you will.  And with that, I invite you to read my journeys if you like.

The thing about standing is that once you stand, it is hard to think about going back to sitting. I mean, I can, but by choice and not out of necessity. And, when standing, your whole body is engaged in the music and it feels like dancing.  The thing about standing is that- well, I have felt honored to watch a few babies take their first steps. All of a sudden, the crawling no longer gets them to the heights that they’d like to reach. So they hold out their arms for help. They reach to you and you reach down to them. But then, there is a moment when they realize they can stand on their own and they take a step.  And soon, they are reaching what they want and on their own.  And that is the thing about standing- there’s always more growing to do, and running and jumping and skipping and dancing- but the first step has been taken.

The moment now embedded in memory- when I stood up and sang…                                                                                                                And everything in me smiled.

And I breathe that in….

before looking around from this new place and reaching my foot forward to feel out the new ground ahead.