There I was dressed in a dropped waist red velvet dress my mother had made, standing before 300 parents who'd come to hear their angels sing. There I stood with the bright red bow causing my scalp to itch, and knowing that if I scratched my head it would draw attention to me. There I cowered in front of the mic, having practiced my solo for MONTHS, knowing it inside and out. There was my mother in the back of the room, beaming proudly at the shapeless 7 year old lump she'd dressed in her red dropped waist creation with a white crochet collar. There was the entire school in attendance staring at me as I stood on the stage at the very front of the lunch room, ready to sing some Hanukkah song I'd never heard of before that school year. I looked and felt like I belonged on Santa's workshop floor painting toy cars, and here all these people expected me to sing instead.
I stepped up to the mic, and out of nowhere an angelic voice echoed through the halls of the school. I froze. That wasn't my voice. That was the girl NEXT to me. It had always been intended as a duet with the two of us opening the song together, but she was often a rather sick child (she had leukemia) and usually missed practice. She said she wasn't going to sing. She said she was going to let ME sing and she would mouth the words along beside me. The roles had reversed in a split second. I mouthed along beside her. I swore it was a secret I would never tell. That day, as I stood to give the performance of my short lifetime, I CHOKED.
I've looked back on that day many, many, MANY nights. I often wonder if things would have been different had I been brave enough to actually sing beside her that day instead of fading into the background and letting her take center stage. Would I have obtained better self esteem? Would I have done better in school? Would she have turned out to be my best friend after that for several years? Probably not. Yet it's one of my earliest and very first regrets. I regret not actually singing that day. In the back of my mind I've always vowed to make up for that somehow. But I always knew the next time would be different.
The next time, you see, I wouldn't be wearing a drop waist red velvet Santa's Helper dress my mommy had made. I wouldn't have a short-bob haircut, crooked buck teeth or a bow that itched. I wouldn't be standing in front of parents and I wouldn't have to share the mic with anyone else. I had it in my head at 7 years old that the NEXT time, I would look like a princess. I'd be beautifully dressed from head to toe, with some elaborate hairstyle and simply dripping with jewelry. I would sing every note pitch perfect. I've have a small, intimate audience, and someone out there would be smiling at me. That someone would be the person I'd be singing to. The rest of the audience would fade away into the background and nothing else on earth would exist for those three minutes.
That day has finally come. Tonight is the night. And though in some regard it may sound like I'm putting too much pressure on myself, I'm really not. Remembering that backstory is actually providing me with the strength I need. I'm prepared because I know what to expect of me and what I expect of the world. If three people clap I'll see it as a success. But no matter what, tonight I will get up there and finally have my solo. It's been 30 years I've waited for this moment. Good or not. I will SHINE.