I've been performing my entire life: acting in community plays since nine, performing shows in my living room, singing in church at age five even though the religious songs went over my head, and always dancing in my room and at school dances. Performing is what I'm good at it, it gives me life, a healthy high, my therapy. I can't imagine life without performing.
I almost gave it all up. It was April 2009, I was 15 years old, and going through some dark times: family issues, painful insecurity, anxiety, depression, loneliness. Performing and dreaming of performing was the only thing that could help me, help me feel anything, not be numb to the world. I was isolating myself from the world, feeling only safe in my house, with my music and writing.
It was spring break, and there was an advertisement on the radio. Downeast Idol, a local singing competition for teenagers for the town of Calais and St. Stephen, Canada was holding auditions. I knew I wanted to audition, I always dreamt of being a singer, and I had big dreams of being on American Idol. Due to my increasing anxiety and insecurity, I doubted my ability, my self-esteem was microscopic. My friends kept telling me to do it, and watching American Idol auditions the night before, I finally decided to do it. Something good had to come along, and maybe this was it.
I couldn't decide on what song to sing. Avril? Kelly Clarkson? So many to choose from. I practiced and prepared in the little time I had. Crossing the border, I shook the whole way. No going back now.
I arrived to the St. Stephen High School, then made my way to the auditorium where the audition was. There was an empty stage, tons of empty chairs, with a single chair and microphone under a spotlight. Talk about intimidation. I trembled uncontrollably, and sat on the stool, squinting under the bright light to see the two judges sitting across from me.
I sung "Sk8ter Boi", admittedly not the best song to sing, but it was a song I knew and worked with my vocal range. It was difficult to sing with my shaky, nervous voice, my nerves shimmering under the spotlight. But the judges seemed to believe in me, and kept asking me to sing different songs. With each new song request, I gradually became more comfortable and confident. The judges appeared to be impressed, as their tones were warm and improving. They told me they would call me at the end of the day with their decision.
Walking out of the auditorium, I felt confident for the first time in months. My mom, who was outside the room, looked at me in shock, "I didn't know you could sing like that." My mother, who is always been unapologetically honest, truly thought I was going to get to compete in the contest.
All day I was on edge; every time the phone rang, my heart would get heavy and pound like a kick drum. Yet I felt good about something for the first time in months, my spirit seemed to be lifting out of the darkness it was in.
But then came the devastating blow. The phone call finally came. I didn't make it. The world went around mute around me. I don't remember crying so hard in my life. I finally hit rock bottom. I was inconsolable, nobody could help me, nobody could save me. I didn't want to be saved, I wanted it all to end.
I locked myself in my room, sobbing my will to go on and little happiness I had left into my pillows. Singing, one of the few things I had as a coping mechanism, had failed me. I was so tired of being rejected, getting hurt, my self-esteem and spirit had been so critically beaten that I wanted to just give up. Give up on living, give up on trying, give up performing, give up my dreams. My dreams were stupid, they weren't going to happen. I was self-destroying myself, as the rest of the world seem to be doing to me, I was simply turning the pain inward.
I woke up the next day, heavy hearted, broken. My tv was left turned on to Vh1, music videos playing in the background. I wasn't paying attention to the pointless videos, they were just a painful reminder of what would never happen for me.
A familiar song got my attention. "Second Chance" by Shinedown came on. I had heard this song before, but never really paid attention to it, or the video, this was the first time I had seen the video in its entirety. The music video tells a story of a girl who dreams of becoming a dancer, but her family doesn't support her, and the girl eventually leaves her family to pursue her passion. I wanted to be the girl, run away from my problems and not come home until I finally reached my aspirations.
Suddenly I felt an urge to fight, an urge to keep going. I cried again, this time out of gratitude--somebody finally understood how I felt. The song came on the moment I needed it the most. Music kept me going, it was the one thing that made my life tolerable, a way for me to feel heard, feel understood.
Since that fateful day, my passion for performing has been alive and kicking. Performing in plays and skits, dance recitals, and even singing in public, performing has gotten me through some of my worst days. It makes me feel important, loved, special, powerful.
In April 2017, eight years after the fateful rejection, I performed a solo routine to Second Chance in my dance group's recital. The song means so much to me, and even in on my bad days, that song still serves as a comfort. I wish I could thank Brent Smith personally for writing and singing such a beautiful song. This is what music and performing is all about: inspiring others with our own emotions and experiences.
I still dream of being famous and inspiring others, and I honestly don't know where I would be now without that moment of blackness. Performing is part of who I am, what I'm good at. I can't live without it, it's the gifts I've been blessed with for whatever reason, and I can't take it for granted, or throw it away again.
Never give up. Never stop chasing your dreams.
My solo routine: