This isn’t the pre-Eroticon blog post on valuing my voice that I planned to write – though I’m absolutely still going to write that one too. This blog post is inspired by the music I’m listening to right now, on a train heading to London. It’s music that makes me want to sing, and fighting the urge to is hard even though I know that singing on trains is socially unacceptable. I also want to add a content warning specifically for my Scottish boy – please stop reading now my friend.
A girl who I have an unwritten policy never to write about here – and am thus breaking one of the rules I set myself when I started blogging over a year ago by writing this – once told me that I can’t sing.
It doesn’t actually matter, for the purpose of this blog post, whether or not she was right. What matters is that I’ve spent a significant portion of the last two years convincing myself that it doesn’t matter whether or not she was right. I love singing, and even if I can’t sing I’m not going to stop singing.
I find empowerment and strength and healing in singing: nothing is better for my broken heart than finding lyrics I can scream into the wind that will help me work through my feelings. In fact, I can track the last five years of my life in terms of the songs I knew by heart through singing them again and again.
Picture this, a slightly stressed Quinn in a t-shirt from last year’s Eroticon adventure and brand new red jeans that make my ass look (I hope) extremely spank-able. This train carriage fairly empty, which is why I have the courage to do this. I have headphones in and I’m holding my phone (into which they are plugged) in my right hand. I’m holding it, and singing into it, as though it’s a microphone. I’m pretending that I can really sing, and throwing ever bit of emotion and attitude I have into the song.
I’m singing as quietly as possible, because I know I shouldn’t be, but I can’t help but sing.
I don’t think that even my closest friends knew that while I was younger I wanted to be a singer. My favourite book, around the age of twelve I think, was a YA novel where the protagonist was a folk-punk-ish singer-songwriter. I secretly dreamed of becoming famous for my unique style, wrote songs about boys and saving the environment, and tried to memorise my own lyrics. (Looking back, I can see how hard I was working to try and pretend I was into boys – at twelve I was very, very gay.)
Singing in choirs was part of my childhood, even to the point of a disastrous solo competition. From about my mid-teens, when I began to throw myself into my school work, I knew that I was never going to be a great singer – and maybe even knew that I wasn’t especially good. They were doubts I could push down though, as I sung my way through exams and falling in love with a girl for the first time, picking out songs that described the feelings I was trying to understand. Even when I’m angry or sad, singing those emotions makes me happy.
Which is why it devastated me when the aforementioned girl told me that I couldn’t sing.
I am bad at conforming to societal norms: I do sing in public, even today, in the same way that I dance in public and talk aloud to myself with enthusiastic hand gestures. Every time I catch myself singing though, I have to fight down the waves of guilt and sadness that try to tell me that I can’t sing and thus I shouldn’t. It took approximately ten seconds for her words to change the way I thought about my voice, and it’s a long and difficult process to relearn that I’m allowed to sing. That even if I am the worst singer in the world, it’s something I love.
What is the point I’m making here? Well, I have to fight incredibly hard to sing. Every moment of bliss, when I’m lost in music and escaping reality in lyrics, is paid for with tears and self-hatred warring with self-development. I want to tell this story because it’s incredibly personal, and my blog is a place where I can tell a story like this. But I also think there’s a lesson, of sorts, to be learned here.
When people try to tell you that you have nothing to say, they’re not always right. And I do have something to say – even if I maybe shouldn’t try singing it.
I’ve mentioned The Guilty Feminist quite recently, and want to leave you with another thing that this podcast has given me: the beginning of a musical that might even rival Hamilton for a place in my heart.