Sunday, July 21, 2013

Singing in Palau

Last week I posted about my upcoming plans for my life, which are a very big deal. And I was so excited to share with you what was going on and what’s up next for Stranger. And you guys were all like, “ok. BUT WHAT ABOUT DANIEL?!?!?!?!?!?!?!”

Guys. DANIEL DOESN’T EVEN READ THIS BLOG. Why do you care more about him than me?!

This is totally not helping the fact that his mom apparently believes that nobody would read Stranger if Daniel wasn’t around. And I hope that’s not true because that may be one of the upcoming changes.

Daniel toyed with the idea of staying in Palau for another year when he was offered a great job as a consultant. He has decided against this, however, and instead wants to head back to the United States of America because BURRITOS and SHOES THAT ARE BIG ENOUGH TO FIT HIS GIANT FEET.

He is in the process of figuring out where to go next and currently it’s looking unlikely that that place will be in the same city as me. I’ll miss him, and worry that nobody will be around to keep him from dying of food poisoning. But I have no doubt that Daniel will be a friend for life and one we’ll still hear much from around here. I’ll update you all on his plans over the next month and give him his due time in the spotlight.

Yesterday, though, was sort of MY time in the spotlight. A while ago a senior Mormon missionary in Palau, Sister Carter, basically threatened me with my life to get me to sing a solo in church. Ok. So maybe she didn’t “threaten” me explicitly. But I think there was some morbid subtext to all the smiles and “pleases.”

This was one of those things where she was asking me to commit to something WAY into the future and so I just said yes because it’s easy to say yes to stuff that isn’t going to happen for a while, which is actually exactly how I ended up in Palau.

As the weeks progressed, I forgot about my promised musical performance, until I was informed ten days ago that I was on the program at church the coming week to sing my heart and soul out in front of a bunch of people.

Picking a song out was difficult, particularly since my suggested “Party in the U.S.A.” and “Tell me what you want, what you really really want!” were handily rejected. I guess I’m the only one who likes good music and happiness around here.

A Mormon appropriate hymn was selected and we began practicing. I was FREAKED OUT. Because I have NEVER sung a solo in church before. Every time someone sings a solo in church, I sit there, all judgmental-like but with a polite look on my face. But I have always known that I am too freaked out to get up there and do something like that myself.

It’s not that I don’t like singing or that I’m scared of being in front of people. Get me in front of a crowd of eager listeners and I’ll be casually telling intimate poop stories by the end of the hour. But for some reason the thought of singing makes me feel incredibly vulnerable and self-conscious.

But I started practicing well in advanced and I was so happy with how I sounded. I seriously thought Broadway was going to rush in through the doors and whisk me away to New York City. And I totally began preparing acceptance speeches in my mind for all of the awards I was going to win. “I never could have done this without my biggest inspirations, Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber.”

And then I pictured me and Paul Simon getting spotted having lunch together and he would be all, “ugh. Can’t the paparazzi just leave us alone?” And I would be all, “I know! So annoying.” And I would roll my eyes but secretly inside I would be all “OH MY GOSH I WONDER IF THE PAPARAZZI WILL BE WILLING TO GIVE ME COPIES OF ALL OF THESE PICTURES AND I HOPE PAUL SIMON DIDN’T NOTICE THAT I JUST CUT SOME FABRIC OFF OF HIS SHIRT AND PUT IT IN MY MOUTH!!!”

Yesterday the time of performance arrived. I felt ready to make my grand singing debut. Then something happened when they called my name. My legs suddenly started wobbling like I was Gumby in an Earthquake.

When I got to the mic, I could feel all of my internal organs rising through my throat and I was prepared any second to cough my stomach through my mouth. And then everyone would know I ate Oreos for breakfast.

Then the music started, and I began singing. But it wasn’t my voice that came out. It was the voice of an aged woman who smoked too much in the 1930s because that’s all they used to teach in elementary school.

And as I heard my voice shaking wildly, I just stared down at my music and never once attempted to look up at the people. Fourteen days later, what must have been the longest song in the history of music finally came to an end.

And now I’m worried that Paul Simon will never want to be my friend.

Is it possible to overcome these nerves?

~It Just Gets Stranger

35 comments:

  1. Oh my gods lol! Aw, those nerves can be overcome with practice and stuff. I'm sure you can make it up to Paul somehow!!! I've heard he's a forgiving person. Also, how's Daniel? ;)

    (butseriously, what if you and Daniel part ways and then he starts reading the archives of this blog... omg he'd be so weirded out!)

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  2. I still have yet to figure out how to calm my nerves before singing in church, even if I am singing with the ward choir. However, I have noticed that once I start singing, I begin to feel more confident, especially as the song get closer to the end. By the way, what song did you sing?

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    1. It was "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief." The LONGEST song of ALL time.

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    2. Oh gosh, yesterday during sacrament meeting, some boys got up to sing the musical number and the one hymn I was hoping it wouldn't be was "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" (in honor of pioneer day and all). Luckily it wasn't. And no, there is no way to calm the nerves. You've got the yips. Have fun with it.

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    3. At least it was a beautiful song.

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  3. Growing up, I had heard countless musical numbers where the person was singing the right notes but just wasn't enjoyable to listen to. I was always worried that I fell into that category. I could sing the right pitches, but could I really sing?
    I cried through my first voice recital and then opted to start taking the lessons for cash so that I wouldn't be obligated to sing in another recital for my grade. I had some really great excuses for getting out of every recital. I also switched voice teachers four times so that they wouldn't catch on to the fact that I was never performing.
    For me, karaoke was the answer. To me, karaoke isn't real singing, not like singing a classical piece or singing in church. I could ham it up and/or belt it out. If I made a mistake, it was excused for the sake of all my effort to be entertaining. I soon realized I was received well for my actual talent and not just the way I worked the crowd with my wireless mic.
    That made it possible for me to feel comfortable singing in a real setting many times since then.
    The first time I sang in a fireside for several hundred college students, I was also leading the music. My vocal cords clamped during the opening hymn, and I couldn't even sing those verses. I physically could not sing. I feared for the worse, since my piece was only minutes away. I offered a prayer in my heart and received a very beautiful response. I sang that piece, and I sang it well. That was the last time I have experienced more than the usual butterflies. (I still get nervous; it's just not debilitating.)
    Try karaoke. It may also work for you.
    Regardless, just keep singing. Singing is the greatest thing in the whole world.

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    1. Katie must be amazing because she's right. Singing IS the greatest thing in the whole world. And karaoke may also work for you.

      By the way, your hair is totally "witit" today. I wish I knew what "witit" meant.

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  4. I stopped paying attention to what I was reading after you said Daniel is moving to a different city than you. There are no words for the sense of loss I'm feeling.

    And also, I feel strongly that there should have been a Glee reference in this post. Despite the obvious political correctness issue with Cory Monteith's death.

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    1. Glee! Darn. I must be slipping.

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  5. This story made me laugh so hard. Especially when you put the fabric in your mouth.

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  6. I used to get really nervous speaking to a group of people, to the point of shaking. I was always worried about being judged or saying something stupid or whatever. I only got over it after being a retail manager for a few years. It's a matter of authority, really. I used to be afraid that anyone was paying too close attention when I talked. That they were picking apart everything I said and when I inevitably slipped up and said or did something stupid, everyone would start laughing. I think that fear is basically at the root of everyone's fears of speaking (or singing) in public. And then I became a manager and I realized that not only did I want everyone to be paying attention to everything I said, I NEEDED them to be paying attention. It wasn't like that at first... I used to hope every single day that another manager would run our morning meetings. But as I became more confident, more used to it, I stopped feeling like I hoped no one was paying attention. I should have been what everyone was paying attention to in that moment. I think that's really the secret. Instead of worrying about some inevitable slip of the tongue, or the horrifying realization that you've forgotten to wear pants or something, you really need to control the room. They are there to hear you and you should be expecting the full attention of every single one of them. And if you happen to have forgotten to put on pants, well, you make a joke about it and then you get on with your stuff.

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  7. I understand your anxieties when it comes to singing in public. Singing is a very personal thing. When you're singing in front of an audience, you're basically sharing a piece of your soul, which can make anyone feel wracked with anxiety. I have this same issue. I get so much anxiety just singing in front of my best friend. If I somehow muster up the courage to sing a little tune, I usually end up sounding like Pee Wee Herman on Broadway, which is totally not how I sound like when I sing by myself. According to my best friend, apparently all it comes down to is building up confidence in yourself to shake off the anxiety that holds your voice back. His words, not mine. I hope that helps some.

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  8. I used to get REALLY freaked out singing in public, even with a group. The irony? I was in a theater group. Yeah, they used to have to push me out on the stage. So, just to "help" me, (or in other words, set me up to look like the biggest fool ever) the directors gave me a pretty big singing part in one of the numbers. At REHEARSAL, (AKA no one was there to watch) I panicked, walked off the stage and locked myself in a bathroom stall. I overcame it all, though. I went to sing karaoke...in several places. I know it sounds weird, but once you get used to singing in front of people you don't know, you kind of don't care about singing in front of other people you don't know.

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  9. I have never, ever sung a solo in church and I never, ever intend to. I've played lots of piano solos though, which is comforting. When I press a key on the piano I always know what it's going to sound like (except for the time when I pressed a key on a piano during a funeral and it broke the string, that was interesting). When you sing you're never sure of what is going to come out of your mouth. Literally.

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  10. I guess you have to think about what allows you to talk to an audience easily and what it is about singing that strangulates you. I did improv in college and I always visualized diving into a pool before I went out. Something about that image allowed me to shrug off my self-consciousness and literally, dive into what I was doing. Maybe you choked because you weren't calling the shots-- you were called up to sing; you didn't just get to walk out. And maybe because you didn't get to sing, say, something from Tone-Loc's oeuvre, you clammed up. When performance works, it's very liberating, right? Think about how great it will feel to overcome those nerves, and how that relief is a way more forceful feeling than the nerves themselves. Yeah, I don't really understand what I wrote either. Shh, you.

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  11. Seriously...did you just mention Justin Bieber in your blog? I may have to stop reading your stuff now.

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    1. Yes, but only in subtle mockery.

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  12. I've done a lot of performing--plays and musicals and "madrigals" in high school and college and even some community stuff years ago, and I still get jello-legs and a wobbly voice when I sing a solo in church. So now I recruit at least one other person to sing with me. Duets and quartets are much easier on the nerves for some reason.

    Thanks for making me laugh every day.

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  13. "This was one of those things where she was asking me to commit to something WAY into the future and so I just said yes because it’s easy to say yes to stuff that isn’t going to happen for a while, which is actually exactly how I ended up in Palau." - and racing Ironman.....;)

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  14. One Sunday many years ago in my student ward this girl (woman, I guess) got up to sing a musical number. The pianist played the intro, she sang the first line with a really shaky voice, stopped and just stood there while the piano kept going, then turned and walked off the stand and out of the chapel. I don't think that had ever happened before, nor have I seen it happen since.
    Lesson #1 - doing that might be more embarrassing than actually sticking it out and finishing the song.
    Lesson #2 - doing that might prevent you from being asked to do another musical number... at least in that ward.

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  15. Um yeah I so hope that was sarcasm about Justin Bieber, as a Canadian I find him the most offensive famous Canadian out there. Of course I can forgive you, as I suspect you don't get as much news as we do about famous people around here. Dude if you look up the words biggest jerk alive in the dictionary it has his picture beside it. His latest escapade was to pee in some poor hard worker's scrub bucket instead of going to the washroom like a normal person and having the nerve to touch the Stanley Cup. The first one disgusted me personally, as I used to be a janitor at a High School. The second one just may get him severely beaten by hockey fans if he dares to show his face at a game.(Only the winners of a Stanley cup is ever allowed to touch it) Ok I've had my rant.
    I am sorry to hear that you had a hard time with your solo though, you'll be ok though you're a strong person :)

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  16. I don't know about other followers but for me the interest with Daniel is because Eli and Daniel make for some grand entertainment. Eli and Daniel go together like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I will still follow stranger if Daniel isn't in it. Because, let's face it, Eli is absolutely hilarious. We'll all just miss the comedy between them. Did I even make any sense?

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  17. "I HOPE PAUL SIMON DIDN’T NOTICE THAT I JUST CUT SOME FABRIC OFF OF HIS SHIRT AND PUT IT IN MY MOUTH!!!”

    Best line in the history of Stranger. I laughed so inappropriately loud and hard when I read that!

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    1. AGREED! I seriously literally actually peed my pants when I read that line! I should be embarrassed but I'm still laughing so hard. I was sitting in my kitchen and not expecting to laugh that hard. I am SO happy I wasn't reading this at work!

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  18. Oh my Gosh. Crying laughing. Which is awkward because I'm at work...Maybe I should start reading these when I get home....Yeah no, can't wait that long.

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  19. I have had nightmares that were more enjoyable than how this situation would be for me.

    Reminds me of a story I heard on Sunday. A guy told me that back in the day when there were missionary farewells this guy asked his non-Mormon friend to come and sing a song in sacrament meeting. The friend showed up with a guitar and sang "Leaving On A Jet Plane." Classy. Keep that one in your back pocket next time you have to sing in church.

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    1. Ok, this is amazing. I so wish I could have seen the reactions of the people on the stand when that started up.

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    2. I sometimes fear our ward here in the Midsouth is borderline-apostate, I could so see our resident Elvis impersonator (yes really) singing "Leaving on a Jet Plane" in sacrament and it would go on just like it was nothing. Your comment reminded me of the time the woman minister from another denomination came with one of our more colorful sisters and testified from the pulpit (it was fast Sunday) "I believe my dear sister has found the right church for her! And this man (pointing to our Bishop) is truly a man of God!" then she started singing a song as she walked down from the pulpit ending with a loud amen when she got back to her seat. And we all Amened right back. Some people just like to sing in front of people. I think it's ... BECAUSE THEY ARE CRAZY!

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  20. You sing? I'm impressed! What vocal range do you sing? We're you paired with a piano? Usually singing with another instrument makes it sound less awful (USUALLY). I'm sure you did great, as long as you didn't sound like Bieber.

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  21. Please visit this place and take pictures before you leave, please, please, please!

    http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/jellyfish-lake

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  22. My mom once told me that she got over her nerves about public speaking after singing a solo because singing a solo was so much more nerve-wracking, so maybe you just need to find something that makes you even more nervous than singing a solo. On the other hand, I've been singing solos for years and if I'm not feeling at least a little bit nervous I have to question how committed I really am to whatever I'm performing and if I don't care then should I be doing it.

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  23. Sometimes I feel like something is wrong with me when other strangers say they are laughing so much they cry. I think you're funny Eli, you make me smile and sometimes I think "aww, I love him", but have never laugh so hard that I peed my pants or cried. I wonder if there is a pill or an exercise that will make me laugh more... BTW, loved this post and all the comments.

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    1. Hehe.. I think people sometimes exaggerate a little. Which doesn't mean that the post is not super funny. I actually read a blog post a couple of nights ago written by an American guy that lives in various countries around the world. He said Americans sometimes exaggerate like that. Like when they give someone a compliment or something good has happened. For example "This is the best thing ever" or "I fell off my chair while reading this" Probably not true. But I have laughed out loud at some of Eli's posts. Especially when I can relate. Plus readers come here already with an expectation to read something that will make them laugh.

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