As she touched the keys of the piano lightly her fingers trembled. She was painfully aware of the people around her, felt the weight of their passing conversations press down upon her hunched shoulders as she took a deep breath. She let her hair fall around her face as her eyes darted across the keys wildly. She was unsure if she could remember the piece her heart wanted to play, unsure of the depth of touch needed for the keys to sound, unsure if she had the courage to just do it. She turned her head slowly to the left and peeked through her hair, as if waiting to be caught as an imposter and told to leave. She caught site of families and couples deep in conversation and felt fear rise in her throat and quicken her pulse.
Fear told its familiar story of not being good enough, of it being better to give up now than expose oneself and be judged on ability or lack of
Fear told her it was better for the music that was deep within her soul not to be heard, for it was no good and was not worthy of listening ears. She would be laughed at. She pressed middle C lightly as her hands shook. Perhaps she could just play quietly so no-one would hear but she could at least ease the ache inside her that longed to make music. She breathed again, looked to the right and saw two smiling faces; her friends cheering her on silently with warmth in their smiles and glasses lifted in congratulation at getting this far. Little did they know her terror. Fear tightened its grip around her throat; her fingers moved away from the keys as she began to convince herself it was better to just leave it, forget her dream of performing and leave it for someone else to play.
But then another voice spoke; that of courage and of not giving a damn anymore about being judged
Just play for crying out loud, just play and set your soul free. You know this is your dream and it doesn’t matter whether you get every note wrong. Yes, stepping outside of your comfort zone is frightening, fear has a strong hold at times but it doesn’t matter.
It is not yours to judge yourself and your ability. It is your job to just do it and explore the magic outside of your comfort and security. The adventure is yours for the taking. Just close your eyes and play
So she did just that. She pulled her feet forwards and pressed the pedals with a familiar tenderness. It felt like coming home. She poised her long fingers above the keys and breathed deeply. She breathed in courage, she breathed in fear but most of all she breathed in her dreams and passion and, as she exhaled, she began. It would be a lie to say she hit every note perfectly. A lie to say she was a concert pianist when clearly she wasn’t. But she played with passion; she laughed out loud at the bum notes and giggled as her friends moved closer with their glasses of wine. They listened with smiles and kind heckles to try and distract her further. If she could have stepped back and seen herself she would have witnessed one of her greatest dreams coming true.
She had embraced her fear, let it sit on the stool beside her and shown just what she was capable of when her mind set her free
She stopped. She played again and then confessed she also had a dream to sing. She had wanted to perform all her life but had never quite found the courage to be properly heard. Never quite found the courage to be so vulnerable as to let her voice be heard.
With strength, a quiet satisfaction and pride at having played in public, she later sang her friends a song. It sounds so simple, as if it took nothing but the act of opening her mouth and letting the tune out. But it took so much more than that for her. Yet again she had to master her fears of failure, of being judged and remind herself of the beauty of play. Of how desperately she wanted to be heard. She paced the room as she considered if she could in fact sing – did she sound terrible? Should she sing quietly? Or perhaps let go, sing from the depths of her heart and pour her soul into her voice?
It didn’t matter how she sounded for at least she was willing to try. And so the voice of courage spoke up once more
She took that deep breath, closed her eyes, let her shoulders fall and sang as if there were no tomorrow. She soared to the highest notes of a soprano voice and to the lowest tones in the depths of throat; with runs and pauses she held her tune and finally let her voice be heard. The exhilaration was next to none. The freedom of expression was exquisite and when she let her last note out and opened her eyes she found her friends silent. With tears in their eyes they told her they couldn’t believe she wasn’t doing something with such a voice. And with that one performance and those kind words an evening of song and acoustic guitar took shape.
And so began a journey whose next chapter is unknown but will surely happen because she let herself be heard
As I sang those songs and played the piano during that day last week I felt incredibly vulnerable. I was reminded of how strong fear can be and how easy it is to just walk away from new experiences, walk away from that vulnerability. It is easier than trying something you believe in. I very nearly didn’t perform and I am thankful I found a voice louder than fear that stopped me from giving up. The moment I stepped outside of my comfort zone, stopped judging myself and recognised nothing mattered other than giving it a try, I set myself free. And you can do the same for whatever it is you believe in.
Fear will always be with us in one form or another but it doesn’t need to stop us. The key is to learn to master our fear, let it sit beside you and just be.
Show fear the magic that can happen when you take its hand and lead it gently towards your dream. It isn’t easy but the rewards are worth every shaky moment when your hands tremble and your pulse races. The rewards of self-belief, of courage, of just being who you want to be are incredible. Even when you hit the bum notes and have to start again, just as I did. Even when you completely forget the line to the song and make it up as you go along, just as I did on more than one occasion that day.
S today I encourage you to do something that is outside of your comfort zone. Go and take a deep breath and open the door to one of your dreams and just try.
No matter what happens I promise you it will be magical simply because you had the courage to try