I have a memory.
Those of you who read Healing Tree know I spent much of my childhood entertaining my mother. One of the songs she loved was “Ebony and Ivory” by Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney. Whenever I would sing it to her, she would smile and laugh and applaud, showering me with praises.
One day in kindergarten, I was in class, sitting at a table across from two boys. We were all working on something, though I don’t remember what it was. Was it a coloring project? Was it a math equation? Were we practicing our handwriting? I’m really not sure, but as I worked, I began to sing “Ebony and Ivory.” I sang it loudly, and the two little boys across from me didn’t like it. “Shhh!” They said.
But I kept going. I felt good about myself. I knew from my mother that singing “Ebony and Ivory” was a really good thing.
Then, one little boy said, “If you don’t stop, we’re going to tell the teacher.” But I still kept going. I remember feeling that they were just grumpy and kind of mean, and I was confident the teacher would surely support my singing. I had a very strong belief that singing, in any fashion, was most certainly a really good thing.
I believed it so much so that I kept on singing, even after they called the teacher. I was so sure the teacher would come over and praise me, explaining to the boys that singing brought happiness, just as I had learned from my mom.
I was shocked – no, devastated – when the teacher came over and told me to be quiet, and that singing wasn’t allowed in the classroom when others were doing their work. As those boys smirked at me with their smug little faces, I found my confidence being crushed right then and there.
Since writing “Healing Tree,” I have been doing a lot of looking back on my life. I can honestly say the last time I felt so full of confidence in front of others – so sure of myself, so proud of myself, so free – was when I was singing “Ebony and Ivory” right before the teacher came over and shushed me. From that moment on, I shrunk myself in social groups, and all that singing, dancing, expressing, and shining of my little light was for my family’s eyes only, in private. My self-confidence proceeded to get much worse from there, through elementary school, middle school, high school and even college, until the moment I met with my soul in January of 2000. Since then, it has been a long and slow process of recovering the confidence I had once felt when I was six years old.
I heard someone say this on a YouTube video the other day about her own experience: “It actually seemed safer to not trust myself, and seemed better to trust the opinions of others.”
“Yes, that’s it!” I thought as I heard her say it. That’s exactly what I had felt. I had traded my courage and confidence for the safety of shrinking myself into the tiniest little version of me, hiding myself away and giving power over to everyone else. Just like those boys – others must certainly be right and I must certainly be wrong. This was the new belief I adopted.
It’s sad to think about. However, it’s also so joyful to remember the true confidence that was brimming inside of me just seconds before that fateful moment. I had it once, therefore it is still alive within me! When I connect with my soul, I feel that brave girl peaking her head out from the boulder she’s been hiding behind for a lifetime. My job now is to tell her it’s ok to come out. It’s safe. In fact, It’s much safer to come out and be bold, be brave and be free, then to diminish her light for even one more day. This is my new belief.
This morning I opened up the following YouTube video and sang my heart out, with tears streaming down my cheeks. I thought of my mom, my greatest fan of all time, who was encouraging me to be an earth citizen long before I even went to school. This morning I sang for her. I sang for those boys and that teacher who were doing what they thought was right at the time. I sang for the sensitive little girl who, in her confusion, became so unnecessarily crushed, and I sang for her new chance to finally choose her confidence again. I sang for setting my magnificent soul free.
You who is reading this post, I hope you sing today!