Cold and metallic, the pink light that always drew my attention away from my pastor's sermon now reflects off the microphone, enticing me. The moment had come--we had been practicing for literally weeks!--the children's choir would now sing for the entire congregation. It seemed as if I had been born for singing. My mom had encouraged this belief through endless Raffi singalongs, my dad through his electrifying renditions of "Old Man River". Now I finally had a chance to share my love of singing, my voice--my gift from God!--with the whole congregation. But the only thing I was really thinking was that I wanted that microphone, wanted to sing "Come on, RING THOSE BELLS!" with all of my heart. So I seized the microphone and did just that.

Enter fifth grade. The big spring concert was fast approaching. My best friend, Tyler, and I wanted the solo for "Jailhouse Rock." Duet after duet got up to audition before the scrutinizing eyes of Mrs. Harwood. As she leveled her gaze at the young hopefuls, I intently followed her facial expressions. Yes! She didn't seem particularly pleased with any of the other groups--now it was our turn to shine! My mom had told me earlier to "not sing too loud", but I knew better. Volume was the key to my vocal gift. Tyler and I stood proud as the music started and segued into the solo. I sang, I sang LOUD, I sang so loud it hurt--but that was the gift. I didn't pay much attention to Tyler; I had confidence in my friend. For a moment I began to doubt our chances, but then I looked to the left and saw a smile on Mrs. Harwood's face. As we walked off the stage she patted my head and said, "Good try, Charlie."

However, my optimism would soon turn to disappointment. We didn't get the part. Sometime soon after, my Mom pulled me aside and told me the truth. Never one to mince words, she simply said: "Charlie, you can't sing." "But..." "God loves to hear your praise no matter how it sounds. But you can't keep in tune. That's why you didn't get the solo." I was heartbroken. For so long I had treasured singing as a way to share my enthusiasm with others; now I questioned myself every time I opened my mouth. This lasted even into High School where, as a junior, I made the LHS musical. I did my best...but sang quietly as well. Humbled, I then qualified my performance of "The Lumberjack Song" for Mr. LHS with "And I can't sing either." I did, however, take to heart what my Mom said about praise: I unabashedly give my all at our Church's Youth Group.

So here I am now, singing a duet with Eddie Vedder--in my basement room. Maybe tomorrow I'll accompany Roger Daltrey, Michael Stipe, John Lennon, or perhaps even Tori Amos. My voice may be a lot deeper and my ear more discerning, but I can still miss a note just as well as that five year old prodigy. Yet I continue to sing, blissfully ignorant of any discordance, enjoying those few moments free from all scrutiny. I have come to realize that despite my inability to please others with my voice, I can still enjoy the sheer pleasure of singing--in solitude. For it is in this solitude that my imperfections can show through without qualifications. It is in this solitude that I am free to be what I imagine myself to be.

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