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To The Person Who Told Me To Stop Singing

I remember where we were. It was a good place. I was finally out of Indiana after a year of working really hard to get my grades back up so I could keep my scholarships. I was happy to finally have some time to to relax, maybe catch up on some reading, hang out with my sisters, whom I missed dearly while I was gone. I had turned 19 not too long ago, and was feeling very adult. Conquering college and work, I was ready for anything.


Except for you.


I don’t know what I did to bother you, but I felt like you had it out for me. It’s a weird feeling, not being treated like an adult when everyone else does. All I wanted to do was interact with the adults around me and talk about my life and my experiences and hear about all of the things that had been going on while I was in another state. Maybe you didn’t know that I have trouble with being told what to do, but I don’t tell anyone that because I don’t want to come across as being bratty. Maybe you forgot that I was an adult with school and a job over the summer. Maybe you didn’t know that I had just declared my double major and was feeling proud of myself for getting a handle on my life and figuring out what I wanted to do, or that I had finished a novel recently that I planned on revising soon, or that I had big dreams of being an author.


Whatever it was, you didn’t seem to care. You kept telling me to do things that you didn’t have much of a place to say anyways. You told me to do the dishes when I had done them the night before, and when I told you that, you told me to do them anyways, even though it wasn’t my family’s turn yet. You told me to unload groceries when I was going to take a nap. Out of the many, many people you could have told to do these things, you picked me, time after time.


But nothing prepared me for when you told me to stop doing the one thing that I take ultimate pride in: my voice. I like to think that I’m a good writer, but I have lots of bad writing days when I feel like I can’t get anything out on paper. I’m a good talker, but I tend to overdo that. But my singing voice is something I’ve practiced every day since I was a child. Bad singing days were few and far between. I grew up singing, I’ll die singing. It’s my one, great talent.


I was walking past you one afternoon. It was late, I was probably going to go outside to the beach to find my sisters, who had been collecting seashells. I don’t know what I was singing, but it was quiet out, so I was humming something, probably mouthing words to some Broadway piece. This was before my Hamilton-craze, so it was most likely something from Wicked or another Broadway piece. I passed you on the couch. You were reading there, and there was a couple other people in the room. I was looking for my towel, not sure where I had dropped it, but my sisters’ towels were everywhere.


I was about to leave the room to check the chairs on the deck outside when you suddenly interrupted my humming and said, “Why do you sing all the time?”


I looked at you in surprise. It was an innocent enough question then. I got that question from parents, little children I babysat, but not by many other people. Anyone who knew me knew that I sang all the time. It wasn’t anything unusual. “I like it,” I replied cheerfully. “It’s my way of reminding myself of God’s love for me.”


That really, honestly was the reason. I loved singing, and people had been telling me for a long time that I had a gift. “God gave you a beautiful voice,” people would say. And I agree. God had given me a beautiful, melodic ear, and growing up in my house which was constantly full of music had only strengthened my love of singing. I sang at prayer meetings, for my church sometimes, and on my own or with my sisters.


That answer was usually enough for people. They would nod and say that it was good to hear people singing, and they liked how cheerful I was. I guess, though, that didn’t matter to you. “You really shouldn’t,” you said, looking back at your book. “People won’t like you.”


I paused, struck dumb for a moment. “What?” was all I could reply.


“I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to scare people away. If you don’t sing, then they’ll like you better.”


I remember walking away in a daze, not sure what to do. All thoughts of finding my sisters was forgotten. I wandered up to the closet-that-was-a-room that my sister and I shared, and sat on my bed. What had I done to warrant that? Had I been doing something wrong? Did I catch you at a bad time? Did you really, honestly, not like me?


Because I don’t think you intended this, but what you said wasn’t what you meant. What you meant to say was, “You should stop singing because I don’t like you.”


And that hurt.


My voice was my way of expressing my emotion. I sang to bring up my spirits when I was feeling down. I sang and danced around to fun music like any person. My singing voice was how I showed the world what I was feeling. And you telling me that people wouldn’t like me because of it hurt me deeply. I wasn’t stupid. I knew when was an appropriate time to sing and what wasn’t. You could have told me that I was bothering you and I would have been quiet I know that not everyone loves my singing, and I have been told more than once to try and be quieter or to not sing in certain places, and I can respect that. But telling me that people won’t like me, that you dislike me, because I sing a little to myself everywhere, that was crossing the line.


I want you to know that I’m a singer at heart. I used to sing Christmas or Easter Mass. I sang in choir in high school, in prayer meetings, and I’m a singer at not one, but two choirs in college, along with more prayer meetings. I want you to know that I have made people cry with my voice, and then ten seconds later made them giggle and laugh. I want you to know that one of my favorite moments ever was when my sisters and I sang at a church picnic with my mom and we hit a perfect three part harmony to a folk song that we still love and sing today. I want you to know that people turn around in church and ask me where I sing and that they love my voice.


I want you to know that I’m proud of being a singer, and besides you, I don’t know anyone who dislikes me because I sing.


I hope that you won’t continue to dislike me. I know we’ll see each other again, and before this, I really looked up to you. I hope that someday I can sing something that will reduce you to tears, of laughter or otherwise. I hope you look at me and don’t see me as a nuisance, or someone to boss around.


I hope that I can finally get over how much that moment angered and confused me.


And if you’re reading this, I hope we can move past it.

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Mary Brophy

Saint Mary's

Junior, Queen of all things Broadway showtunes, loves Star Wars clone troopers far too much to be healthy
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