If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. -Fred Devito
I’ve been thinking a lot about this quote recently. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about it in the context of the Straybirds, a ladies’ singing collective that I helped start with a small group of amazing women. Though my part has been small, I’m thrilled to say that I was a part of it at all, and was involved in the evolution of this North Yorkshire-based choir. I have been challenged and changed.
You may remember that I was singing back-up with a group of women on stage at the Tour de France Opening Ceremony for the Grand Depart just a few months ago. Shortly thereafter, several members among us decided to branch out and try to form a new group.
I was scared. I like things that are comfortable. It was scary to step outside of a safe zone I’d created and be involved in something innovative. Looking back, I’ve approached every change in my life with trepidation. This was no different. Move across an ocean with two young children? Scary. Leave my job to stay home with my children? Scary. Publish my first knitting pattern online? Scary. Publish my novel, which was, for all intents and purposes, an extension of my soul? Terrifyingly scary.
By comparison, this should’ve been relatively simple. This was an adventure, not torture. It was exciting and full of opportunity and promise. It was a hobby, I was surrounded by friends, and clearly there are bigger challenges and changes happening every day all over the world. #firstworldproblems
I was scared anyway. My mind rattled with what-ifs. As we moved forward, I erred on the side of caution with every question we discussed or decision that needed making. I didn’t want to take any more risks.
Luckily, I was surrounded by amazing, take-charge women who laughed in the face of a challenge! Change? They approached it with ease (or, they simply faked it better than I did). With their know-how, we hired an amazing musical director, Neil Balfour. He’s a gifted singer, director, conductor, and pianist with oodles of skills and a few extra hours a week to share with us. I even approached his arrival with worry. Was I, were we, good enough for him? I was afraid. I was comfortable with where I fit in our last choir. In the back of my mind, my self-doubt crept in. What if there was no room for me in this new singing collective? What if where I fit before didn’t exist anymore? It lingered, even after rehearsals rolled on and solos were doled out and we improved and grew and changed. It lingered, though I was able to push that voice to the side more and more as time passed.
And now, after months of risk-taking and challenging ourselves and stepping outside of proverbial boxes, the Straybirds have done their first gig. (Though I missed the gig itself while I was travelling, I practiced and rehearsed and worked alongside everyone else through the preparation stages.) The feedback from family and friends and musicians we’ve worked with in the past was overwhelmingly positive. The performance was impressive. We made so many positive improvements. We were a dazzling new singing collective. We have challenged ourselves, and we have changed in a thousand positive ways. I have changed in a thousand positive ways.
And there is no better feeling in the world.
I’ll try to remember that next time a new challenge crosses my path.