Mine was MORE LIKE HER by Miranda Lambert.
That was my go-to karaoke song the summer after I turned 21. And it was so wrong.
I was a walking apology then. When that happens, when we forget that we don’t have to change to make someone want to be with us, we think the only way to ever have someone in our lives is to be different. Because I didn’t want to change, I was sad. I was reserved to the truth that clearly, the person I decided to be didn’t get to be good enough.
Months later, in the university health center, the receptionist leaned in and said a thing that I will never forget, that all the Good Little Kid parts of me will always wonder about:
“What did your mother say when you cut your hair like that?”
She didn’t know me. But again, she’d made me want to apologize for cutting my hair shorter than the boys. For wearing burnt red skinny cords and knee high boots.
I walked home and called my mother and asked her why short hair had to make me into the kind of girl people whisper about. I thought about telling her lies, all the things I would’ve said to that strange woman with a child of her own. It wouldn’t have solved anything.
When we’re young, we’re fearless. At seven years old, microphone in hand, I manned the left corner of the bar on a cold December Saturday. On either side, people two, three decades older than me nursed bottles of Budweiser and Heineken. It never occurred to me to be nervous.
Back then, my go-to karaoke song was much different: SILVER BELLS. It’s a song that, for so many years, brought me back to my grandmother. Before she was sick. Before she was gone. Before we stopped spending weekends in that red carpeted lodge with stone walls and a white piano.
It’s a song that falls somewhere between happy and nostalgic. It makes you think that you can only ever be happy in the midst of Manhattan on a snow-covered sidewalk with your red Starbucks cup in hand. Then, though, Starbucks was just a toddler in that town.
Some years later, I lost my bravery. My biggest fear as a college freshman was accidentally singing out loud in the community shower. Some girl down the hall walking in mid-chorus and shaking her head, whispering to the rest of the dorm.
We all lose our bravery.
We forget karaoke is the thing we do every day. We go to work singing our song, whatever it may be. We go to work happy, and excited, and energized, and overjoyed to do what it is we’re doing. And no one else is standing there pointing and laughing because we’re happy.
We think they are. We think they’re scanning our Facebook feed and making silent judgments. Or wondering how many hits our LinkedIn profile gets each month.
We wonder whether we’re doing the right thing, or whether we should be doing the thing that makes us want to wake up in the morning.
Let me tell ya: I have always believed it better to do the thing that makes us want to wake up in the morning.
But not everyone has had that.
All I want for you is karaoke. I want you to stand and sing your song. Wake up in the morning and do what makes you happy.