Over a year ago, I wrote a post about how disappointed I was that I gave up singing.
When I was little, my parents — though it tortured them, so — bought me a Casio Kids tape player that could actually take my favorite tape and “remove” the audio track. It was a cutting edge pre-karaoke machine. I would sit in the middle of the living room, on my parents’ beige loveseat that was decorated with large, colorful flowers to hide the chocolate milk and juice stains from 5 children, and sing my heart out. I popped in Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” tape (before anyone told me that it wasn’t appropriate for an 8-year old to sing “Like a Virgin”), cranked up the volume on the microphone, and blocked out the noise of my older sister cursing and screaming at me to WhatTheHellIsWrongWithYouLizaCutItOut!! stop singing (or at least to stop singing so loudly!).
When I was in junior high school, my parents stepped it up and bought the whole house a new karaoke machine (did I mention we are Filipino? Having a karaoke machine is like having a cross in a Catholic church!), and I took over. I learned everything from Frank Sinatra to Funky Cold Medina. If it was on a karaoke tape, I knew it.
High school found me in show choir, bedazzled in fuscia sequence and permanent jazz hands. It was the first time I ever sang a solo outside of my living room, and the first taste of what it felt like to be on stage and hear my voice fill a room.
College acappella. Grad school acappella. Then, started the acappella group at the high school where I worked. I even started a faculty acappella group and held rehearsals in my living room. And, it was on the night of one of those faculty rehearsals when I took my first pregnancy test and discovered I was going to be a mother.
After that, music slipped away from me. After Joli was born, I was consumed with being a first time mom, then moving from New York to Massachusetts. From that point on, our lives were turned upside down. The sound of a metronome was soon replaced by the beeping of the alarms on my daughter’s chemotherapy IV. Then, sounds of another baby crying in our home, then another baby. “Like a Virgin” was soon replaced with “The Barney Song”. Then it was the the steady drumming of my sneakers hitting the pavement during training runs, my own IV drip, the sound of medical tape coming off of my chest, and now the sounds of my laptop as I feverishly write pages and pages of doctoral work.
Music slipped away.
With three kids, a full time job, full time doctoral studies, and volunteering for organizations, it’s hard to imagine my life getting much busier. But, in November 2011, it did.
I began singing again.
But I didn’t just find my voice, I found my courage. Just prior to my audition, I begged the lead singer not to crush my dreams. “Even if I’m terrible,” I said, “Could you just still pretend? Then, we can call it a day. If I’m not the one, and if I’m awful, just let me live in these 3 minutes of bravery, and then we can part pretending that it was a solidly good try. I can leave knowing I took the chance.”
Two months later, I’m still with the band.
Some of us call it a ‘bucket list’ — a list of things we must do or wish we could do before we die. I prefer the “Brave List.” If you knew you couldn’t fail, if you knew that doing so would mean you were brave, what would you do?
Even though I’ve had my mastectomy, I still wonder if this dull pain in my chest is a rogue cell that beat the odds. I picture that cell out at a karaoke bar while the rest of its buddies were being removed from my body. That the cell had somehow blocked out all the noise and kept singing no matter who told it to stop. I wonder if my ovaries are still working with me, or if this is the year they will work against me. I realize that each year I have is a true gift.
So, on this New Year’s Eve, I resolve to live. I cannot fail, for failure is simply not realizing that the purpose of life is to live.
To live bravely and courageously.
Peace, love, and prospero ano,