Thursday, March 29, 2012

The list of talents I possess is pretty short. I’m not very artistic or creative. I’m a terrible public speaker. I’m certainly not athletic. I can bake a mean cookie and crochet pretty well, so I’m all set for whiling away the hours in a rocking chair when I hit my 70s. Besides, I’m not so sure those would be considered talents instead of learned skills. But if there were two talents that I could choose for myself out of the endless realm of possibilities it would be the ability to sing and dance. I should qualify that by saying I’d like the ability to sing and dance well. I technically can do both. Unfortunately when I do sing or dance, I run a very serious risk of embarrassing myself to the point that I would probably need to go into hiding if anyone ever witnessed me doing either.

I think my desire for the ability to sing like Kelly Clarkson or bust a move without looking like Elaine from "Seinfeld" comes from my insanely strong love of music. Probably 75% of my day, every day, is spent listening to music, whether I’m at work, at the gym, in my car, or at home. It just makes everything better and easier when your favorite songs by your favorite bands are playing in the background of whatever you’re doing. And when I’m listening to music, I can’t help but want to sing along and dance around to the sound coming out of the speakers, wherever I am. While I’m at work, my iPod is firmly docked in the speaker on my desk, which is turned up just loud enough for me to hear, but quiet enough so that it doesn’t disturb my coworkers in the offices near mine. I never sing out loud while I’m at work; I like my colleagues too much to subject them to that kind of torture. But, I do bop around in my desk chair ever so slightly when a good, upbeat tune comes up on my iPod as it shuffles through my songs. I think I’ve been able to do this on the sly, so far, because as soon as I hear footsteps coming down the hallway, I sit still as a statue, continuing with my work and pretending like nothing’s going on until the person has completely passed my doorway. Once it’s safe, I promptly resume getting my seated-position groove on until the song is over. I don’t think any of my coworkers have ever caught me yet, but if they have, they’re too nice to say anything about it.

That’s about the extent of my dancing abilities, mostly bouncing and swaying from side to side a little bit. To some, it might look like I’m enduring some sort of seizure, but I swear I’m okay, really. A friend of mine told me recently that all a woman has to do is move her butt around and that’s considered dancing. I disagree with him. I believe that’s called “shakin’ your booty” but it’s not actual dancing. No, I want to be able to cut a rug without looking like I have some kind of illness. No ballet, tap, ballroom dancing, or any of that fru-fru stuff, either. I’d go more for hip hop, breakdancing, or maybe even something like Zumba. The only thing is, I’m too uncoordinated and tightly wound to do any of that stuff. You have to be able to let go and let loose if you want to dance and dance well, and it’s just not in my genetic makeup to do either of those things.  

The only place I allow myself to sing out loud is in my car, only when no one else is with me, and either 1) the windows are securely rolled up and little sound escapes to the outside world, or 2) I have the music turned up so loud that no one would be able to hear my terrible warbling anyway. It’s not that I can’t carry a tune; I can at least do that. Thankfully, years of piano lessons and being a clarinet-playing band geek in high school and college prevented any signs of tone deafness. It’s just that the tune I do carry doesn’t sound so great when it escapes my vocal cords. Occasionally I will muster up the courage to sing somewhere besides my car, and it’s usually in my house when it’s only me, my dog and my cat. If I just can’t resist the urge to sing along to whatever song is playing, I’ll belt it out with my pets as my audience. It usually results in my cat putting her ears flat on her head and running for her life, and my dog giving me a confused look and tilting his head side to side as if he’s saying, “What IS that noise coming out of your mouth?” One time, my normally mild-mannered, good-natured cat was so offended by my singing that she reared back and popped me right in the mouth with her paw. So what does that tell you?

On the spectrum of good and bad singers, I’d place more toward the William Hung end. But maybe my singing and dancing abilities aren’t as horrific as I believe them to be. Maybe. I’m absolutely my own worst critic. I’ve lived most of my life in the school of thought that if you can’t do something perfectly, you shouldn’t do it at all. Mediocrity is not an option. But I think that attitude has kept me from partaking in and enjoying a lot of things in life. Fear of failure is a big deal for me, and I often let that fear hold me back from trying new things that I very well might enjoy, even if I’m not perfect at it. I also care way too much about what other people think of me. I worry about looking stupid while playing a Wii game or people noticing my weight when I go bowling as I step up to the lane to hurl the ball. They’re all stupid insecurities that hold me back, and quite frankly it’s a little bit selfish or vain to think that anyone would give two craps about how I act or look. People have much better things to worry about, I’m sure. I’ve been making a conscious effort to not worry about what other people think, and I’m definitely improving, but it’s a hard habit to break. More and more, though, I find myself thinking, “F@*# it. If someone doesn’t like something about me, they can look away or hit the road. I am who I am.” And I have to admit, it’s quite freeing.

I’ve always been a little bit jealous of those people who can just let loose and have fun no matter what. You know who they are: the ones who hit the dance floor at a wedding reception and twirl and bounce around without any regard to how they look or what they’re doing. (Admittedly, many of them are drunk, but still…) Then there are those people who you see while driving. They’re in their car, music cranked up and they’re singing unabashedly and flailing their arms around to the song. They’re just having fun and enjoying the moment (and hopefully not causing any accidents). I always break into a huge smile and laugh when I see those people at a stoplight jamming away on their steering wheel, and it’s not a “Ha ha, look at that dummy making a fool of himself” kind of laugh. It’s a “Man, he looks like he’s having so much fun” laugh. I don’t see their flaws or imperfections, I just see the sheer joy they’re getting from the music they’re listening to. So why shouldn’t it be the same way for myself? I’m working on it, and the less I care about being perfect, the less I worry about someone hearing me sing and the happier I feel when I do it. Funny the way that works.

So if one day you’re driving down the road and you see a nerdy white girl with short brown hair and glasses in a silver compact car singing at the top of her lungs to Gotye, Two Door Cinema Club, or Augustana, or bopping around in the driver’s seat (only when the car is stopped, of course) to Far East Movement, The Black Keys, or Flo Rida, be kind. Try not to point and snicker too much, just realize that she’s having fun and is extremely happy in that singular moment. And for once, she doesn’t really give a flip if she looks and sounds ridiculous.

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