I'm sure none of you are aware of this at ALL (snicker), but I'm kind of a competitive person. I like to be the best at things, but when I can't be best, I grudgingly settle for really damn good. If I can't be really damn good something, I have a bad tendency of not doing it all.
Well, last week, I went to my very first choir rehearsal in oh ... over ten years. Back in high school, choir was my life. My senior year of high school, I was in both the school choirs, AND I was vice-president of our choir society, AND I was an alto section-leader. I was hard core. And I loved it. I loved that I was able to help my choir, that I could lead the alto section, that people would stand next to me in rehearsal when they were having problems so that they could get the notes down. I loved singing, but a lot of my love of singing was wrapped up in being good.
But I haven't sung in years. I've lost my range. My ear, which used to be fantastic (being an alto will do that for you) is now pretty mediocre. I have no sight-reading ability. Hell, I have difficulties reading music!
Still, when I came to school I decided to join the choir. This was a huge part of who I was, and I love music. I love singing. I'd like to have this piece of me back.
So last week, I went to my first rehearsal. And ... I sucked. I really, really, REALLY sucked. First of all, the piece is an extremely difficult piece of Handel's that in a previous life I would have loved because it requires all of these crazy, intricate runs that have to be done in absolute precision. But in my current life, as a non-singer, it was seriously intimidating.
Secondly, the choir director kept pushing through to cover more and more music. After a couple vain attempts at sight-reading I basically gave up. And I have NEVER been that girl in the choir who stands mute while others sing around her. But I was.
Thirdly, and this kind of exacerbated everything, I was sick. So though I have lost most of my previous range, last week, my range was roughly half an octave.
By the end of rehearsal, I was a mess. I kept thinking, "I'm awful, and I can't sing, and what am I even doing?"
Today was the second rehearsal. And I almost didn't go back. "I'm busy, and I'm tired, and I don't feel like it," I told myself. "It's not fun." But the truth was I was scared. Scared of not being good.
But, in the end, I pushed myself to go. To give it another chance.
And you know what?
It was better.
I'm still not good.
But I'm better. And everything: the singing, the sight-reading, the hearing, the crazy runs? Was easier. And while no one leaned on me for singing support, I did sympathize with a couple of my fellow choir members who found the piece difficult, and helped them feel less alone.
I'm not going to be a leader of this choir.
But I'm a participant.
And sometimes that's okay.
I think there's a broader lesson, somewhere, for me to learn.
As I've been immersed in classes that have talked about the problems of Kyoto, GMO crops and everything in between, I've begun to feel a little well ... despairing. In one seminar, someone was talking about how food aid should be changed to promote self-sufficiency, and I wanted to throw my hands up in the air and be like, "Sure! Why don't you re-write the American food aid bill, and while you're at it, can you please re-write the farm aid bill? And maybe give us universal health care?" Sure it would be nice if American food aid were different, but it ain't gonna happen, the leadership isn't there, so what's the use of even raising the point? Just take the food aid. Or leave it. Most Americans won't know or care either way anyway.
But there is a use in raising the point. There is a point in trying. Even if you know it's not going to be good. Even if you know there's no way America will ever rewrite its food aid bill. Maybe something else will come of it. Maybe you'll learn how to better negotiate. Maybe you'll convince one person, and that person will be your ally. Maybe nothing will happen, but you'll know that you gave it a shot. That even if you weren't the best, you did show up and make your case.
And in the end, that's all any of us can do. Participate. And hope that our participation makes a small amount of good.