Facing the Fear

In a comment responding to my last blog, about becoming Queen’s Bard, someone told me that he read it thinking “I could never do that” - and wondered if I had ever felt that way. It was an interesting question, and an important one, since it speaks to the courage that it takes to get up in front of people and perform. What follows is my response. It touches a little more on the real world than my blog entries usually do, but I decided to post it here for anyone who’s trying to find the courage to do something scary.

I've been pondering how to answer your question for a few hours now. It's a serious question and deserves a serious answer.

The truth is, different people face different challenges. Confidence in performing was never a problem for me. I grew up in a family of professional entertainers and I started performing when I was tiny. I sang on a professional album for the first time when I was three years old. I was a professional in-house studio musician at thirteen. All my life, every time my family went to a party I ended up being asked to sing. When you're raised steeped in this stuff, it's not really scary.

But right now I'm facing something that IS really scary - something that makes me keep asking "Can I really do this? Am I ready? Will I make a fool of myself?" I've decided to try to start a career in opera - at 38 years old, overweight and in a wheelchair. And I'm terrified that no one will even give me a chance to show them who I am and what I can do. I'm also scared that I just won't be good enough. I don't have enough money to invest in the training I really need. My voice has changed a lot since I was studying and it doesn't work the same way it used to.

So yeah, I've been asking myself "Can I do this?" a lot lately. Although she probably doesn't know it, Zohra Rawling was the one who inspired me to try. She complimented my voice and told me she thought I'd make a good Norma - not knowing that Norma has been one of my dream roles since high school. I was flooded with all those hopes and dreams that I've started to abandon because of my disability. And honestly, I don't know if I'm good enough. And I don't know if I can do it. But I want to.

I love being a musical theatre writer. It’s what I want to do this for the rest of my life. But my dream of performing on major stages - it never went away. I miss being on stage. One of the things I love about the SCA is that people see past my disability, past the wheelchair - I don't feel as though my options are limited, the way I sometimes do in the outside world. But trying to ignite a career at this late date is very scary for me.

I am inspired by all the bards in the SCA who get up and perform for the first time. I am inspired by the people I see facing their fears and doing it anyway. When I see people who don't have years of schooling and training and experience get up in front of a group of people and perform with passion - it makes me feel like I can be brave and face this scary thing too.

In Service to the Dream,

Sayyida Laila al-Sanna’ al-Andalusiyya’

Queen’s Bard

Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie; Brussels, Belgium

Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie; Brussels, Belgium