If you are over 40, or can recall the recent #canwetalkchallenge, you’re probably familiar with the amazing music artist, Tevin Campbell. I was his biggest fan in the 90’s. His posters were plastered all over my bedroom wall. My first time hearing his voice was when he sang lead on a song called “Tomorrow (A Better You, Better Me)” by Quincy Jones. To this day, whenever I hear that song it transports me to a pivotal moment, when I chose fear over self-trust.
I don’t remember what grade I was in, but the teachers decided we would perform “Tomorrow” for the school assembly. As we stood on stage practicing, the teacher asked for a volunteer to lead the song. I expected the usual “pick me” students—the popular kids—to raise their hands and fight for the lead. No one raised their hand. The teacher asked again and no one volunteered. I knew the song. In my head, I was singing the entire solo, looking for notes I couldn’t hit, or might “crack” on, to confirm my intention to not raise my hand. She kept asking. Still no one volunteered. I went over the verse again in my head. I started to think maybe I could do it. I looked at her, but I knew someone else would speak up and I didn’t have the confidence to open my mouth.
She asked again, staring right at me. She could see on my face that I wanted to raise my hand, but all I could do was run through the verse one more time in my head, just to make sure I wouldn’t embarrass myself. I got through it. There were no hard notes. I began to raise my hand, and someone volunteered. I quickly put my hand down, hoping no one noticed. I could tell she didn’t really want to do it, but she was confident and I wasn’t so she volunteered. I was disappointed, and relieved. Singing lead felt too big for me. That’s for popular kids. She was a popular kid. I was a “shy” kid, and shy kids don’t sing lead.
Now, several decades later, every time I hear that song, I think of that moment and wonder, “What if I volunteered?” What if I had the courage and raised my hand? What if I blurted out, “I’ll do it!,” walked to that mic, and did a phenomenal job? What if the teacher saw the look on my face, and said, “Marlene, would you like to try it?,” and I said, “Yes,” how would my life have been different?
Not all decisions are trajectory-shifting, but I believe that decision was important. Part of me thinks that if I volunteered that day, and sang that solo, I would be a professional singer, or songwriter, now. I believe that I would have heard the feedback from my classmates and teachers and gained confidence. I would have recognized my love for singing, and pursued more opportunities to sing. Granted, it might’ve gone differently. My voice may have cracked at that practice, or at the assembly, causing such embarrassment that I never sang publicly, again. Honestly, I’ll never know.
All I know is there’s a part of me that truly believes that if I had taken that chance and slowly slipped my trembling hand up, and volunteered, I would’ve rocked that song. I would be Beyonce’, now. (Okay, clearly not, but) I would’ve embraced one of my strongest passions as a child, and spent the rest of my life doing the thing I love the most….
Some months ago, I saw a post from a PHENOMENAL artist, Dee Lionezz, LLC. She has artistic skills that I cannot begin to describe!** In her post, she shared her excitement about getting back to a project that she was eager to work on, after having just completed another exciting project! The idea of doing something that I love so much that I am eager to do another one, rather than exhausted at the mere thought of having to do it again was so next level to me. I thought about all I do and wondered which gave me that kind of endless excitement. Which of my gifts would have me thinking about the next project while working on the current project?
To my surprise, my answer was songwriting. It’s the gift I give the least amount of effort toward, but music is the one thing I am most passionate about—even more than dance. I love music. I study music. I pay attention to the subtle changes and how they impact the listeners, the patterns, the way intensity is built, the details of riffs and runs. I listen to every genre of music (except 80’s rock and heavy metal—sorry I just can’t.) I make up songs all day, without even realizing it. When I’m at the sink, doing dishes, or when I’m prepping food, and especially when I’m near the washing machine (it’s got the perfect rhythm), I’m writing songs. If I hear music playing in the distance, and can’t fully make out the lyrics—or the details of the melody—I make them up. I sing all day. I have hundreds of hooks, verses, melodies, and baselines saved in my phones, the cloud, and on drives because for at least a decade, I have received fully composed, original songs in my dreams!
With all that said, I’m still not songwriting. I wake up, record what I heard in my dreams, and do nothing with them. I have started and stopped songwriting so many times. Each time I get back to it, I remember it’s hard, or that I don’t have the help I feel I need, life gets busy, and I put it back on the shelf.
I have multiple songwriting apps on my phone. I joined a songwriting meetup group years ago. I got a keyboard. I’ve invested in expensive music software. I created a SoundCloud account (separate from my podcast). I’ve shared my songs with phenomenal musician friends. I wrote a song for Helen Baylor and tweeted it to Helen Baylor. I even began this post many months ago. AND, I have continued to put songwriting on the backburner—to see it as this thing I do… but not well enough to do for real.
This morning, I had an epiphany. It’s time to do the thing that lights me up more than anything. It’s time to stop hiding and being scared. It’s time to stop worrying about how much work it’ll take and what resources and help I don’t have. It’s time to stop feeling unworthy of my passion. It’s time to stop seeing myself as that shy little girl, on stage, who thinks, “This is too big for me.”
It’s time for me to do the inner child work to heal that messaging. It’s time to take that “shy” label off of me and stand in who I truly am. It’s time for me to know that nothing that means this much to me can not be for me. It’s time to know I’m worthy and capable. It’s time to stir up my courage, raise my hand, and say, “I’ll do it!”
The cool thing about passions is that when they belong to you, they keep calling. Even when you don’t realize that you’re being called, you are drawn to them. That thing that you love learning about…. That thing that you watch endless documentaries about…. That topic you know so well that you could teach a course on it…. That topic you talk everyone’s ear off about….
Start to pay attention to what you collect and obsess over…. where you invest your time and your money…. what you love to study. It’s possible you are receiving a call from your passion. Maybe it’s time we both answer.
Marlene Dillon Empowerment Specialist #Proud2BNaturalMe
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