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  • Sam Darling

My life as a weirdo

Choir music is designed for the masses. The usual SATB music is chosen to fit a typical vocal range and allow for a blend of nice voices into a whole that is pleasing to the ear. When you’re young, you start out singing in choirs. I was lucky that I had a singer mother and supportive teachers who recognized I had a soloist voice and gave me encouragement at crucial stages of my artistic development. I might have assumed I was simply terrible as my voice does does not fit in the normal range. My voice is higher. It’s calibre is that of “soloist”; it cuts through all of the other voices. You can put me against an orchestra and a 50-person choir and I can sing at my normal volume and you will still hear me through everyone else.

I have to work triple-time to rein in my sound so I can blend into a choir. The conductor asks me to tone it down and I am doing my best to hear the other voices and blend while crying because I am, once again, screwing everything up. It’s fine if I’m singing a solo, obviously, but that’s not always what I want to be doing with my day.

Having an oddball character an unusual voice as a writer is also a problem–particularly when you’re in a group learning the ropes. Through no fault of your own you will feel like you’re screwing up simply because you’re weird. Because your voice isn’t suitable to the music everyone is singing. Because your writing isn’t familiar and the audience doesn’t get it.

Being a weirdo was a problem when I was a filmmaker and the awards committee members spoke to me in private to say my work was too unusual to win but it was a favorite among certain members. It’s a problem every time a publisher rejects my writing. It’s a problem when I try to sing in a choir and they’re doing pieces from Les Miserable a full octave lower than is comfortable for me.

People call me exceptional but I hear that word as “weirdo” and I find myself wishing I could be normal.

I’m salty licorice in a chocolate-loving world.

[Author, India Street, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, 2001 – photo credit Christian]

Every rejection feels like the reason to quit. For every successful artist who gives you the old “never give up” line there are thousands who did give up and you never hear from them. Rejection is brutal and it never stops.

It’s not even that I think I’m good. The issue at the heart of this is that when I stop trying I am miserable. A writer producing garbage  is happier than a blocked artist. I learned this from my own years of refusing to sing and write. What I am creating now might be terrible but it is something I have to do in order to feel okay about the world.

Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Anyway, I’m sorry if my voice messed up the perfect four-part harmony yesterday, dear conductor. I’m doing my best to fit in, I swear. I have this normal-person persona that I wear and it’s pretty good, but the mask slips off sometimes.

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