Silencing a Singer
I recently recalled a key event in my past. It was an overheard conversation that lasted maybe two minutes, but that moment has re-shaped the last decade of my life. I was sixteen years old, on a school bus, seemingly asleep, when two girls nearby made fun of my singing voice.
I wanted to sink into that plastic seat. The blood drained from my cheeks. My insides churned. And I squeezed my eyes shut all the tighter, pretending I didn’t hear. And then I went on pretending for months and years afterward. Consciously, I didn’t allow myself to dwell on this. I strangled and buried every thought connected to that bus ride. But my actions betrayed my unconscious hurt.
In choir, I started singing softer. I was a high soprano with lots of vibrato, and so I stopped singing the high notes altogether. When I moved to Orlando months later, I stopped auditioning for musical theatre too. I methodically drained any public brush with singing from my life. There were a few exceptions, but each of those left me feeling small and weak and sorry I had risked it. Apparently, I would rather quit performing and live with an ache rather than singing for a critic’s ear.
If you had asked me even a week ago why I had stopped singing, I would have given a vague answer about moving to Orlando. But that’s just not true. I stopped singing because I was still on that school bus whenever I opened my mouth to sing. I could still feel the sting of criticism, deep down, even if I had long since shaded that memory in gray.
But then journaling swept this memory back into color. And though it hurt to remember the sharp pain of that conversation, I discovered something else. A gem that made the journey worth it. I am a singer. God gave me this, but I have chosen to stifle it for over a decade. I may not be a soloist, and that’s okay, but I am a singer. And I’m through pretending that I’m not.
We each have critics in our lives who can silence us if we choose to let them. Some of those critics might have left long ago, but their voices still linger in their wakes. I’m suggesting that we step up to those voices. If God has given you a way to create, claim it! I know it’s a battle. I know it isn’t easy, but I assure you that you aren’t alone. God loves you and wants to free you with enough perseverance for the both of you. Ask Him and see. And a journal wouldn’t hurt either.
How do you respond to criticism? How have you moved past it?