The first Tuesday of 2013 I walked into The Moonshine Cafe earlier than anyone shows up for an open mic.
I didn't know the rules yet, so when I saw the empty sign-up sheet I picked the 4th box from the top and thought, oh good, I'll be fourth.
Anyone who's signed up for an open stage will laugh because we all know (now) that what everyone else will do when they see that name on the sheet is sign up after them.
Alexander Quail was hosting back then and after he started us off I was first up. I was petrified. Normally I walk into a space and figure it out by observing everyone else, but there was no chance so I just sat down at the piano and sang.
Honestly, I can't remember what 2 songs I played. All I remember is the promise I made to myself before I walked in: to never perform my own songs from a lyric/chord sheet again.
That's all I'd EVER done. Since my first talent show performance at age 12. There. Were. Always. Words. To go somewhere new in front of strangers without them was the scariest thing I've ever conquered.
I stayed for the whole night, and a friend kept me company. Then at the end Alex said because I'd gone first, it was my first open mic, and I'd stayed for the whole line-up, I should sing again to close out the night.
THAT song I remember. It was Adele's Set Fire to the Rain. I remember sitting down and deciding to just go for it, hold nothing back. Be loud, be dynamic. And I nailed it.
That was elation. I'd never felt anything like that sensation before. And even though I was shaking, I wanted to feel it again. I wanted to be the only one on stage, where the performance rested in my hands, and I wanted to learn to shape it.
For 4 years I came back every week, missing hardly any. I studied. I practiced. I experimented. I jammed. I accompanied. I harmonized. I learned.
I know the world is a different place now, but there is nothing like becoming a student of your craft in an environment like I found at there. If you can find a space where you can challenge yourself and you've got the support of community around you, embrace it.
Photo from 2014 (can't remember who took it)