About


I used to love singing. Family lore has it that even before I started school, I could sing along songs from the 80s which my parents swore I had heard for the first time then. My mother claimed it was because she would often listen to those songs when I was still in her womb. They were so amazed at how “gifted” I was and I took that as an encouragement to continue singing which I did for a few more years.

Back in kindergarten, every time the teacher would ask for a volunteeer to lead the class in a song, my hand would always be the first one up. At First Friday Mass, I would always look forward to singing church songs and I would always sing heartily. It did not matter that I did not really understand what the songs meant. I just kept on singing because I love music, or so I thought. Then, when I was in third grade, I learned from my teacher what my parents and everbody else who cared never dared to tell me — that I actually sing out of tune. And as if to confirm the bitter truth, I never did well in music class. Do-re-mi was as good as Greek to me and music sheets always seemed like abstract art. I was not good at handling instruments either. Because I never learned to read notes, I never learned to play the piano and attempts at learning the strings only left my fingers calloused in vain. Thus, I learned to shun music.

It was not really a big deal. In fact, I even turned it into a joke and I often entertained my high school friends with my off-key singing. How they loved it! When the day had turned dull, all I had to do was sing for them — that is, I butchered otherwise lovely songs by screeching their lyrics at the top of my lungs. There was never a time that no one had a good laugh at my old trick so I did it every chance that I could get. Because Anne Curtis was then popular for flaunting the same shortcoming, my reputation as an off-key singer easily spread around the school.Thus, I became an instant singing sensation for the very wrong reason!

Sometimes though, it can be frustrating to hear a beautiful song, knowing that despite knowing its words by heart, I will never get its melody right. Sometimes, it can be frustrating to be in church, my heart bursting with music praising God but I keep my mouth shut because I am worried that I might distract my seatmate with my off-key singing. Sometimes, it can be frustrating that I cannot join my friends or my family when they sing because I am afraid I would ruin the moment. Always, it is frustrating to feel like a nuisance whenever there is music in the air.

Somehow, it is the same way with life. You see, ever since I could remember, I have never been a likeable girl. I am the kind who does not invite neither enmity nor friendship. I am one that everyone feels obligated to put up with and not any more than that. I do not have a best friend. In fact, I do not have friends at all. Those who I call “friends” do not actually treat me like one. They merely tolerate me. The only real friend I have is my sister and I am not even sure she can be counted as one.

I did not plan it to be that way. After all, who likes being alone and friendless? But then, while it is true that there is strength in numbers and that no man is an island, being entirely one with the flock is not always the best thing to do. An individual must learn to recognize her own rhythm and move with it. I learned that the hard way.

In my first year of high school, I always wondered why everyone was nice to me yet no one wanted to stay to be my friend. I remember how I used to watch the other girls bitterly during recess as they gossiped among their groups while I sat alone reading a classic novel that nobody thought was cool. Being a young teenager, I was then beginning to yearn for the security of being in a group. So, I decided to turn myself around and did what everyone did. When they cut class, I followed them. When they cursed, so did I. When they bullied other kids, I laughed with them. When they mocked teachers, I did the same. When they backstabbed one another, I joined the mess. Eventually, I became a completely different person. By trying to bend myself a little so that I would feel like I belong, I ended up breaking myself. But then I thought, who cares? I gained lots of friends. Looking back, I find the irony wryly amusing — to be likeable, all I had to do was be a bitch.

Now, I ask myself, Was all the trouble really necessary?

Yes, because good girls are not likely to make it great in this world. If life were a musical, then a good girl will never get the best part because she refuses to stick with the script and thus, she sings out of tune. Who wants to listen to an off-key singer? Definitely no one, except for amusement, maybe.

No, for her songs are her own. She is not like the rest who sing with their voices strained to reach those same notes from a predefined collection that intends to please an audience. Instead, she sings spontaneously, every note coming straight from her heart. Her lyrics are not edited, the melody is never composed. She does not aim to please an audience. She sings for her own self, to show herself bared of all trappings.

So the answer can either be yes or no, depending on one’s purpose. Thus, the ultimate question is this: Who do you want to sing for? I have already figured mine out — whenever life demands a song from me, I will always choose to sing out of tune. And that’s okay.

3 thoughts on “About”

  1. It’s a little hard for me to “like” this, because I *don’t* like seeing situations where anyone feels they must conform to others’ expectations (or what they think others expect, at least) in order to be valued or respected or liked. But I like it because it’s honest, and because at a certain level it’s almost a universal experience. For you, it’s singing or being a “good girl,” for me the good-girl thing and physical grace or action (sports, dancing), and for others it might be all appearance-based (who’s considered Pretty by the in crowd) or something else entirely.

    Whatever the distinction, being different is the last thing teenagers and young adults want, but at the same time we crave being considered special, which is easiest to sense if it’s based on unique qualities or characteristics. What a lousy conundrum to deal with when you’re at your most vulnerable age! 🙂 Somehow, most of us survive it. Some even conquer it with style.

    I hope that’s what you’ve been doing, and I’ll enjoy looking around your blog to see how you go about it. But I also hope that, if you really enjoy singing, you find all sorts of occasions and excuses to do it no matter what. I’m married to a wonderful singer who teaches singers and conducts choirs, where tunefulness really does matter, but although I sang quite a bit when I was young, I developed Spasmodic Dysphonia, a condition of vocal chord malfunction as ungraceful as its name sounds, so I can’t reliably contribute to a choir anymore. When my vocal chords work *enough*, I’m still happy to croak out at the top of my voice in church, because it’s an expression of joy and worship, not a form of skilled entertainment for the people around me in the pews. My spouse (along with many of our musician/music teacher friends) assures me that most people can learn to hear and sing on correct pitches if guided by a skilled teacher, so if you would like to learn that new skill, why not schedule a lesson or two—but if that’s not high on your list, then just delight in singing because it is a pleasure and makes *you* happy. That’s what we’re given voices for, I think. And I’m pretty sure that the God who *invented* singing listens with happiness when we dare to raise our God-given voices in song, whether they’re trained and “beautiful” or not.

    Cheers!
    Kathryn

    Like

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