At a recent show, I sang “Stop the World”– by Maxwell. I heard this girl in the front row. The loudest girl in there. Every time I hit a run– a series of notes going up and down–she yelled, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, girl, he doesn’t even know.”
It wasn’t always like this for me. Just a few years ago, I’d sing as loud as I wanted in the shower, as long as no one was watching. But I was terrified to take the spotlight. The truth is, I was scared to even talk to people. Completely scared of girls. Just living in this intensely awkward shell.
I slowly worked up my nerve by attending open mics. I started performing poetry. Then rap. And one day, a full on love song:
This is for those that bleed
That want, but have no need
This ain’t for the war
This is only
For lovers only
I was trembling throughout the song. And at the end, I stared at the audience for maybe two seconds in silence. Then they broke into applause. It felt good, and I knew I wanted more.
Part of my newfound confidence comes from finally having the courage to do what I love, what I had been afraid to do for so long. And part of it comes from owning my own vulnerability.
For me to really give my best performance, I need to make myself vulnerable and trust that my audience will take me as seriously as I’m taking them.
I’ve discovered the energy and the confidence that I get from performing. It carries over to other parts of my life. It’s bigger than singing. It’s changed how I carry myself, how I speak with people.
And, thankfully, it’s also taken the stress out of finding a date for Valentine’s Day.
With a Perspective, I’m Salim Boykin.
Salim Boykin is 20 years old and lives in Berkeley. He performs with Remix Your Life, the arts program at Youth Radio.