I didn’t want to do this one again. I just didn’t. Nope. No, thank you. I did it once and it turned out great so I’m gonna lean towards the big “HELL NO” in my head and respectively decline.
But then…There’s this other voice in my head…a much softer, kinder, nudge of a voice, whispering…What are you really afraid of?
I’m afraid no one will listen. I’m afraid of looking like a fool. I’m afraid of falling on my ass because standing up while playing my guitar on a crowded subway train, while the train is moving, is dangerous. I’m afraid I’ll give up after one try. I’m afraid of crying like a little girl at feeling unnoticed.
There!! Are you happy, inner voice?? Isn’t that a good enough reason!
Nope. I have learned there’s always something more to discover underneath that fear.
Last Tuesday evening, with my guitar on my back…I just decided to do it again. And in this instance, the fear was much more intense than the first time.
I pulled out my guitar and introduced myself, “Hey guys…I’m Charlene and I’m gonna sing you a song that I wrote and you can listen or not…and here goes!” (or something like that, I don’t remember verbatim).
Then I start singing. And the train is going Express. Which, if you’re a New Yorker, you know what that sounds like. Really loud, awful noises start interfering as we’re speeding through stops. If you’re not familiar, that noise resembles a steamroller mixed with a long horn and scratching rails. It’s awful. I couldn’t hear me. They certainly couldn’t hear me. So, I kept singing louder. Then, it stopped. And now, they can hear me screaming…I mean, singing.
I, awkwardly thanked everyone for listening and began to travel to the next car. As I leave, I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turned and it’s a man handing me two bucks! TWO BUCKS!!! He must have felt sorry for me
(side note: Why do I always have to go there? Why can’t I just accept that maybe he liked my singing?) I thanked him and went on my way.
I made the decision to continue to sing from car to car until I reached my destination: home in Brooklyn. And in case you’re wondering…that’s a LOT of stops.
As I continued my stint of Subway Songstress, I began to get good at it. I introduced myself. I sang. I tried different songs to see if one would be the “hit” of the subway-singing-experience. I tried to make eye contact. I smiled. I waved. And I kept moving.
Some people would hand me a couple of buck as I left, and others didn’t even look up. In fact, I noticed one man leave the subway car as soon as I started to sing, just to move to the next one.
So, I followed him. I had this idea that I would stand right in front of him while BELTING out one of my tunes. But, instead…I sat down and watched him from across the way. He just wanted to read his paper in quiet. I get it, Dude. And I moved on.
As I got closer to my destination, I started wondering: Where’s my big ending? This can’t be… it?
Then, I heard that voice again: Why do you always need a big outcome? You just sang and played for over thirty minutes without taking anyone’s responses personally. You behaved much braver than you did the first time. That is enough.
I sat in silence. My heart was beating a mile a minute. I was drenched in sweat. It was as if I had just gotten done with a workout. I mean, didn’t I?
I packed my guitar back in it’s case and I realized two things: One, it doesn’t feel good to be ignored and unseen. It just doesn’t. I started to think about what my life would be like if I never felt seen. What if my parents didn’t love like they do? Or what if I wasn’t attractive, by societal standards or what if I had no talent or no positive reinforcement and so on.
I felt really lucky that I am someone who walks into spaces where people are actually happy to see me. In fact, I built my life around feeling seen, valued, appreciated, admired.
And the second realization is…when that big, loud voice is screaming “NOOOOOOOO, don’t do it again!” it’s usually because there’s an unhealed wound, probably from childhood, that doesn’t want to get triggered.
That’s what this voice was trying to protect me from. Because I did begin to tear up when I walked from subway car to subway car….feeling ignored. Emotions are our truth tellers. They force us to notice where we still need healing. And the difference now is I felt it, and I just kept going. And that’s all we can do.
I left the train and this experience feeling more expansive. More open. Freer. Lighter.
And that is enough.