Monday, February 8, 2010

High School Revisited (1)

The first memory that pops into my head, of high school that is, is standing up in choir class and trying out for a solo.

I didn’t have amazing self-esteem back then. I had big teeth and a squishy nose, my ACT scores reminded me how smart I wasn’t, and I was the last person to finish the mile in my gym class. There were very few things about myself that I was implicitly sure of, but one thing that I knew I could do reasonably well was singing.

I remember clearing my throat and looking nervously around the room. Everyone was staring at me: Craig, Lindsey, Alex, Shauni, Sarah, Allison… but really, I was singing for one person.

The choir director, Mr. Roberts.

He was fat, and mean, and bald, and old, and Satan, and wore pants that were, frankly, too tight around the crotch area. And he didn’t like me at all.

I know, right? Not liking me? Ludicrous!

But I wanted him to like me so badly. Mr. Robert’s opinion mattered so much because he had power over who got parts in the musical (I tried out every year to no avail), and because he liked all of my friends, but didn’t like me. But the main reason his opinion mattered so much is because I needed him—of all people—to validate my “one and only” talent.

The pianist gave the introduction and I let my voice soar. I sounded good… real good. I held my end note until the piano stopped. The room went quiet and I looked hopefully at Mr. Roberts.

His face turned turnip red before my very eyes. “No, no, no!!!!” he yelled, smacking his pen down on his sheet music over and over again. “You got the count all wrong?! Can’t you do anything right?! Will someone else show Bethany how to sing properly?!”

I bet you think I am exaggerating. Certainly no teacher would ever yell like that, in front of everyone, at a tender girl of 5’2”.

But he did, and I remembered every word.

This was not the first time Mr. Roberts had put me in my place. He had many times before and several of those times I had deserved it. But this time...this time it was not contructive, it was cruel.

I tried not to cry, because crying is not cool, but the tears started to come anyway. I felt like the one thing that made me special … maybe didn’t. Maybe I wasn’t a good singer after all. Maybe I didn’t have anything to offer. I picked up my backpack and removed myself from class—finding an abandoned broom closet in which to cry myself silly.

Now, I don’t believe that I was a victim of Mr. Roberts. No one can take something from you if you don’t let them. But I left a part of me in that choir room that day--the part of me that loved to sing, the part of me that loved to perform. I gave it to Mr. Roberts willingly, selfishly.

Boy, did I show him.

Now that I am all grown up and so wise and stuff, I can see what I let myself do. Sometimes I miss that part of me—while singing softly to my cub as I rock her to sleep or when I hear the ward choir sing and I am not standing there with them.

But sometimes I don’t miss that part of me at all.


adrienne said...

Ok, this is blog that causes me at least as much pain as it does you.

I love the Bethany that you are now, but I still wish you'd go back to that Chatfield choir room and pick up that little piece you left behind.

Not that I'm still bitter or anything. . . . .

birdbabies said...

hey i'm still waiting to find out when i can order a book. i'm totally serious about getting one (and if i can have it signed by you too i think that would be awesome) i'm so excited for you and can't wait to read it. lets get together again one of these days and catch up. lunch maybe?

Katie said...

I didn't know that whole story...I didn't know exactly what occurred in the choir room. I say-- lets toilet paper his house!!! And I also must say, you have the most beautiful voice I've ever heard and if you let it go then...well then...then...I'll just be really mad ok?!

Dana said...

Booooo mr. Roberts!!! What a jerk! I have always loved hearing you sing!!! I might still have my "Bethany's Greatest Hits" cassette you sent me... I love you B-hoo, I can't believe he would be so mean. He was obviously jealous of your talent. Or maybe just evil???

Ryan said...

I would like to go and smack Mr. Roberts upside the head!

I hope one day you get some portion of that piece of Bethany back. On the very few occasions I have had a chance to glimpse that part of who you once were I have been very moved each time. Your voice has the ability to pierce the heart and make it fly. I hold very dear the few times I have heard you unleash that wonderful voice of yours. I love it. It is moving. And when you sing you glow.

Jessie said...

I'm crying inside for that little Bethany...