During our recent trip to Ireland, my husband and I went into an Irish pub in hopes of hearing some authentic Irish music. And while the pub did have a young man singing that night, he didn’t play the traditional Irish music we had hoped to hear. Instead, he played a wide variety of familiar songs, and at one point he even launched into a medley of Johnny Cash’s greatest hits. At first, I was annoyed that he wasn’t singing the songs I wanted to hear, but after a while I just relaxed and enjoyed the music. He played a mean guitar and had a beautiful voice, and eventually I realized that what he was doing was singing exactly the songs he wanted to sing, and singing them very well.
Maybe it was the two glasses of wine, but I began to think that there might be a lesson for all of us in that pub. The young man could have played it safe and served up exactly the sort of music that most tourists want to hear when they enter an Irish pub, but he choose not to do that. Maybe he wasn’t good at performing traditional Irish music, or maybe he simply didn’t care for it very much. Maybe he knew that the city of Galway is full of pubs that cater to its many tourists, and felt that he would stand out from the crowd more if he performed a different kind of music. I didn’t ask him, so I’ll never know. But I got the sense that he was pouring his heart into the music he chose to sing, and because of that his performance was so good that my husband and I stayed and listened to him much longer than we had intended.
Not all of us can sing or play an instrument, but I believe that each and every one of us has something unique to offer. We each have our own individual perspective on things, our own unique gifts and our own special way of viewing the world around us. I have gone to several of those popular painting classes where the teacher shows everyone (no painting talent needed, thank goodness) how to paint a particular picture. And even though we are led through the process step-by-step, I am always amazed at how different our finished pictures look. Even with the same subject, the same paint colors and the same teacher, we all come up with something just a little bit different, and that is uniquely ours.
There will never be any shortage of people in our lives who want to tell us exactly how to act, what to believe, and how we should use our creative gifts. And sometimes its very tempting to listen to them in order to feel the acceptance and validation that we all tend to crave. But when we do that, when we ignore our own truths and mimic someone else’s, or when we paint the picture, write the story, or sing the song that someone else wants us to, we are turning our backs on the essence of what makes each of us a unique and worthwhile individual.
I think it’s important to trust our own perceptions, to believe in our own visions and to stand in our own truths, and to share those with others, even when we’re not so sure how they will be received. One way or another, we all need to “sing our own song” with courage and conviction. Even if that means belting out a Johnny Cash medley in a traditional Irish pub.