The Hardest Thing I Ever Did

The most difficult thing I ever had to do was sing Happy Birthday. True story.

Doesn’t seem that scary, does it? Certainly not in comparison to having a child, or going through some of the literally life-threatening madness that I did when I was younger. Or leaving a fulltime (and highly paid) job in the depths of a recession. But yeah…when I think back, singing the birthday song certainly springs to mind.

At one point, when I still wanted to be an actor, I attended the Lee Strasberg Institute in Los Angeles. It was a wonderful experience and I learned a great deal, not least that I didn’t want to be an actor. Oh, sure, that was still a big dream of mine – what I didn’t want to do is end up as a fifty-year-old waitress. So I bailed, but not before the Happy Birthday experience.

In one class we were discussing the things that made us the most afraid, and how to overcome that fear. I unwisely mentioned that the thing that scared me the most was singing in public. (I can sing. I actually have a decent voice. It just scares the bejeezus out of me to sing in front of people.) Anyway, bad move. As I should have anticipated, I was asked by our instructor to get up on stage and sing for the class. Anything I wanted. Sing Happy Birthday. I felt as though I was going to vomit, or pass out. Dying spontaneously or being transported away magically to an alternate universe was unfortunately not an option.

So I sang. I sang out loud. I sang with my legs shaking. I sang as I cried. I sang with snot and tears running down my face (I know – lovely image). But I stayed up there and I fucking sang until he said I could come down. And all the other hypocritical little bastards who were just thankful that it wasn’t them applauded and cheered for me.

But I did it. I would never want to do it again, as I now have an even greater fear of singing onstage (being up there under a spotlight with snot running into your mouth will damn well do that to you), but I know that I could do it if I had to. And I suppose that in itself is a valuable lesson to have learned. Nothing is so bad that we cannot do it if circumstances demand it.


3 thoughts on “The Hardest Thing I Ever Did”

  1. One of the things I am most thankful for is that I lack the gene for stage fright or fear of public speaking. I can saunter on stage and just chat with a room full of people without a hint of fear.

    I know this is non-standard, which is why I am thankful for it.

  2. You’re lucky, and yes that is an essential skill to be thankful for.

    The singing thing is weird…I can sing alone, I just can’t sing in front of other people. I can’t sing in private to a single person, even one who loves me. I couldn’t sing to my daughter unless we made up silly songs to sing in weird voices to each other. Lullabies? No way, not even in front of a baby. The mind is a strange place.

  3. That is pretty strange. I have the world’s worst singing voice. This is not exaggeration. If I sing at the top of my lungs I sound like the death screams of a cow going through a rock crusher tail first.

    But I often break into song to my wife. She’s nice, so she acts like she finds it charming. I also make up my own words, since I have no head for remembering lyrics.

    But, I won’t dance in front of people. Same kind of weird mental block. I have an excellent sense of rhythm. I played bass guitar for years, and my timing is rock solid. I have good manual dexterity. I’m light on my feet. I have all of the things you need to have to dance. But the thought of dancing by myself with people watching breaks me out in cold sweats.

    The mind is indeed strange.

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