The day before my first performance at Roy Thomson Hall, some seventeen years ago, a friend of mine asked me if I was nervous.
I hadn’t thought about being nervous: I had been singing and performing for years, I would be joining 23 other people from my choir on stage, and I was 11 years old. Nothing fazes an 11-year-old. With all of that, why would I even think of being nervous?
The next day, I went up on stage and sang. And after my performance, like after every performance before that, I was filled with an immense feeling of happiness. I had done something I loved to do, and I had done it well.
For over a decade after that performance at Roy Thomson Hall, I continued to sing, continued to perform in various venues for diverse crowds for a variety of reasons. There would be no butterflies in my stomach before taking the stage, but there was, in every single instance, a smile on my face once I stepped off the stage.
I stopped singing about five years ago. It wasn’t a conscious decision: I felt as though I no longer had time to devote to practice with choirs or a capella groups or bands, and I stopped spending time actively looking for gigs. It may be cliché to say it, but life just got in the way.
Then, last week, I sang.
It wasn’t a big show. There were only a few hundred people in the crowd, and I was performing with five very competent and accomplished singers, and we had spent hours arranging and practicing our four pieces: a “routine” performance in every single way.
Still, I was nervous. Incredibly nervous. For the first time in my life, I was worried about stepping on stage, worried about how I would look, how I would sound. I was worried about disappointing the rest of the group, worried about boring the audience, worried about not living up to my own expectations.
When we were introduced, I put my nerves aside, stepped up on stage, and sang.
As we finished our set, I realized that even though everything before taking the stage had felt completely different than before, everything after the performance felt exactly the same: I had an immense feeling of happiness. I had done something I loved to do, and I had done it relatively well.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to be as confident before a performance as I was when I was 11 years old, but that’s okay. Sometimes you have to do things that challenge you, that make you feel a little bit uneasy — especially when you know that, after you’re done, the payoff will be amazing.