Anyone who knows me from my days as a youngster will know that I was painfully shy. In fact, even as recent as a few years ago I was still shy! I struggled to talk to people I didn't know, I didn't even feel particularly comfortable talking at all and often kept a hand close to my mouth, self conscious of my teeth and generally feeling very awkward.
There aren't an overwhelming amount of photos of me as a child because I avoided the camera most of the time. The ones that are about (and my Dad likes to post these publically for a laugh) used to make me cringe and despair. I remember being so completely terrified of being embarrassed by any of these pictures that, when I came across a picture in the recycling bin on the family computer of me when I was little, I completely freaked out and demanded to know what humiliating poster my Dad was creating. It turned out he had put together a little slide show of my older sister and I growing up as we share a birthday (she is exactly 3 years older so 18th & 21st was a big deal!). It was beautiful. It wasn't humiliating at all, he had been very kind with his choice of pictures and I felt awful that I had ruined the surprise. Sorry Dad- it really was wonderful.
Am I shy now? Nope! What changed? I met my soul mate. When Mr T came into my life I was at a pretty low point- a story for another day maybe, or perhaps just best forgotten. I was a little more confident than previously in that I had been forced to face the unknown by joining the work force and moving out of home, but socially I was still lacking. When on a night out and fuelled by alcohol, no bother. Suddenly I had a mask to hide behind and everything could be blamed on the booze, not me, so all was well. But introduce me to new people in an unfamiliar setting and I'm back to square one. So what did Mr T do to change things? He loved me. For exactly who I am, just the way I am. He made me believe in myself and be comfortable in my own skin. These days I sing in a band, The Haze (www.thehazeband.co.uk shameless, I know). If you had told me as little as four years ago I would be in a band there is no way I would believe you- absolutely not, no way, never ever, even drunk I'm not doing karaoke so why would I ever humiliate myself like that?! One day, Mr T came home early to find me warbling away in the kitchen with the door shut whilst I was cooking. When he opened the door I turned beetroot red- you see, Mr T is a musician, from a family of musicians so I was completely ready to be mocked for my cat wailing noise! But he didn't laugh, he said "why didn't you tell me you can sing?"
I was genuinely surprised by this question and assured him that I can't. As he didn't torture me, I gradually relaxed a little bit and sang in the shower when he was home, and in the car along to the radio, where previously I would only sing alone. On a holiday in Tenerife, before the days of Crazy, we were very drunk on cheap beer one evening when the cabaret turned out to be karaoke. I could barely walk, was bouncing off of the walls quite literally and somehow, Mr T persuaded me to get up and sing a song with him. I couldn't tell you what we sang, I just know it was utterly terrifying. My legs were wobbly, I felt sick, my face was hot with embarrassment but we got through it. I made a swift exit from the bar to find people outside that had been listening. "That was pretty good! Do another one!" Whaaat? No way! Actually... that was pretty fun. But no.
Anyway, that was it for a long time, but as I said earlier- Mr T is a musician and was in a band. I often accompanied him to rehearsals and never missed a gig. As I relaxed and started to believe Mr T's constant reassurance and kind words about my vocal abilities I somehow joined in the odd track with some backing vocals- it was very kind of them to let me participate! I was extremely nervous if ever I got up on stage at an actual gig (very rarely) and even rehearsals left me with wobbly knees even though they were a really nice bunch of fellas. Eventually Mr T's time with the band came to an end and on parting he decided to start a new band. He asked me to join and although I was really nervous, I wanted to do it! I wanted to get past my fears and do something I would never have believed I could do. Somebody once told me I had no talent, that I couldn't do it and for too long I believed that. Now I know I can- and I do. Why are the negatives always so much easier to take on board than the positives? For every person that told me I could, I was deafened by the one voice that told me I couldn't- lesson learned!
I love singing. Not a day goes by that I don't sing something. I love rehearsals- a gathering with my favourite people, doing something we love. I love gigs- we get share the thing we love with people that are interested in hearing us! It makes it so worthwhile to see people joining in and having a good time. It's flattering when people come to see us on more than one occasion. People say some truly kind things about what we do and it genuinely means a lot. These days I hear the positives and they stay with me. Each gig leaves me feeling that little bit more confident and buzzing for the next one. Although its exhausting, its so very rewarding.
So now, friendly banter with new people is not so scary after standing on a raised platform, my voice amplified to a room full of strangers doing something that used to terrify me. Now I'm comfortable in my skin. I am what I am, take me or leave me. I only hope that anyone that doubts themselves can come out the other side and be proud of themselves too. I'll be forever grateful for Mr T for showing me who I really am... but don't tell him, it's our secret.