So, here’s your muddle. You have to do “X”. Doing X makes you very anxious. You haven’t done X very often, perhaps never. Catastrophic failure is a distinct possibility. In fact, it might be inevitable! Yikes!
Who do you choose to fail in front of, complete strangers, or family and friends? Family and friends would certainly be more supportive. In fact, your anxiety might be lower in front of family and friends. Lots of performers have fond memories of early performances in front of family and friends. There’s even YouTube video of some!
Risks are probably lower in front of family and friends, but so are rewards. Your mother has to like everything you try, short of crime. I think it’s in the contract she had to sign to get you out of the hospital. She signed her name. You signed with your hand and foot prints, as writing is difficult at that age. I think they call it a birth certificate, something like that.
But what about complete strangers? Especially complete strangers that you will never see again. Anxiety will certainly be higher. I don’t know you people, you don’t know me, let’s you watch me make a fool of myself. What could go wrong? Brilliant!
But rewards are greater also. If you happen to pull this off, if for some reason a group of complete strangers triggers your adrenaline response and you perform far beyond your abilities, then wow, how cool is that? It could happen.
When I was a teenager my buddy and I played guitars and sang popular acoustic tunes of the time. Neil Young, CSNY, tunes like that. He had (and still has) a wonderful singing voice. He was the male lead in all the high school musicals. I offered various ooh’s and oh’s and ah’s at the appropriate times, in what I thought was the correct key. Sometimes, I was right. I carried the guitar part, he carried the vocals.
We played at gatherings of friends, at the church group gatherings, on the bus to various high school competitions, and so on. We thought we were good. It’s so long ago I don’t remember if we were, I just remember that boy could sing! And somehow, we managed to finagle a paying gig! Yes, we were on our way to the big time! On the cover of the Rolling Stone!
We were booked to play at a local swimming club for their “Hawaiian Luau” night, which was really just a drunken barbecue with leis. We had no idea what we were doing, but we practiced it a lot, and felt pretty comfortable. The big night arrived and I showed up at the gig. There was a large blacktopped area that usually served as two tennis courts where the luau was set up. It looked like it was set up for one of those celebrity roasts they used to have on TV. Oceans of round tables set for eight people each.
I broke out my stuff and went to look for my buddy. No where to be found. He wasn’t there. He didn’t show. To this day, I can’t remember if he was sick or scared or if he got in trouble with his mom and dad, all I remember is that I had to do this gig alone! I’ll have to ask him someday. Two tennis courts full of drunken wanna be Hawaiians, watching teenage me with my guitar and squeaky voice. Talk about X!
Well, I did it. I pulled it off. My folks were there, but they were a statistically insignificant portion of the crowd that day. And although my memories of it are somewhat faded, I seem to remember complete strangers telling me I did alright. Of course my mother told me I was wonderful. After all, she was contractually obligated.
BTW, the crowd favorite that night was a sing-along to Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-a-ling”. Wonder if that says anything about the mood of the crowd that night?