Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fixtures and a Phantom Audience

It was a one mile walk from the train station--the farthest I had ever piggy-backed my guitar. I kept expecting the wide thoroughfare I was walking to narrow into a cozy downtown street, but streets tend to not bend to my will.

The store was smaller than I expected and much louder--there was a rock duo practicing on the stage in the back. This was not the scenario I had in mind when I got on the train earlier that evening. I thought I was tonight's main attraction...To be fair, I was allowed to perform, but I was to perform on the empty sidewalk in front of the store and compete in loudness against the band inside and the speeding cars on the road.

I felt like an indoor cat thrown into the wild. Months of performing in the same cozy coffee shop had left me comfortable and soft. There are so many more distractions outside! And nowhere to focus! And it felt so ridiculous to fight to be heard when it seemed no one was listening.

Okay, well, actually, I was lucky and a friend of mine came to support me, but even then I found myself wondering, "Why am I doing this? Why did I travel for an hour to get here? Why am I trying to fight all this noise? Who cares? Who even knows that I'm here?" It's so easy to ask those questions and look for a reason to quit, because feeling like your presence doesn't matter tends to make you feel worthless and simply not happy.

But the thing about trying to succeed as a performer, or even just as a person wandering through life, is that you never know who is actually watching or listening. You don't know how thin the walls are, how good someone's hearing is or how far your illumination travels. You don't know the extent to which you are affecting your surroundings or, perhaps more profoundly, someone's life. And you may never know.

So, to quell the barrage of questions running rampant in my head, I reminded myself that I was not there for accolades and praise. I was there to gain experience and more importantly, I was there to make the world better in whatever little ways I could . I was there to be a floor lamp-- an unnoticed fixture in a room I could help light--because it's not a matter of how pretty or appreciated the lampshade is, but a matter of how bright the glow.

Be bold.


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