I went to a concert the other night, at my school.
My school has a programme called the Base line. Essensially, it’s a programme for people with issues of one kind or another who want to improve or complete their high school dimplomas. One day a week, they have music lessons.
It should come as no surprise that I think music is important. After all, I’ve studied it my whole life and it’s what I want to do for a living. I’ve always felt that music can be used to help people. But until I saw this gig, I didn’t realise quite how much.
Most of these people had never played an instrument before this year, but now almost all of them did, and it was so clear, seeing them on that stage, that they loved it. Truly loved it. They owned that stage! They were in their element. They were Elvis, and Mick Jagger, and Bruce Springsteen. They were Janis Joplin and Suzi Quattro and Billy Holiday.
These are people who have probably grown up being told that they’re not good for anything, because they have mental problems, ADD, etc. They’ve been told they’re stupid, annoying, will never amount to anything. Sitting in a room for a few hours every week and learning how to play instruments is probably the first time it’s occurred to them that, yes, they can.
And they were brilliant. I mean, sure, they’re beginners, but just the fact that they were able to find the confidence to go up on that stage and rock out was truly magnificent and so inspirational. It’s not a big deal for me to get up on a stage and play a song. I’ve been doing it since I was five. But what those kids did, that takes guts.
They had a special guest, in the form of a guy who went to the Base line a few years ago. I don’t know exactly what was wrong with him, but he had trouble walking and was very shaky. He carried a chair up on the stage with him and sat down. He then proceeded to tell us how he’d recently been to Nepal, to do volunteer work. He told us how the people there, who are so poor, had embraced him and welcomed him in even though he was different. Then he sang One by U2, and I bawled my effing eyes out.
You must understand, I absolutely hate that song. It’s overplayed and annoying. It’s right up there with Wonderwall on the list of dead horses that have been so severely flogged that they should never be allowed to see the light of day again. But his performance was amazing. Not because he was a great singer–he wasn’t, he was a perfectly adequate singer. But because he had such feeling. He meant every word, from the bottom of his heart.
And I thought, if this guy can find within himself the confidence and the love to get up on a stage and sing before an audience in spite of his physical limitations, and if he can travel to one of the most destitute nations on Earth to do volunteer work, if he can find that love and confidence and honesty and self-acceptance within him necessary to do those things… Then so can we all.
And if those other kids could learn to play instruments and put on such a fantastic show within the space of a few short months, then what’s to stop you from doing something equally amazing?
So, that’s my advice to you. Find something that makes you happy, something you enjoy, and learn to do it. Play an instrument, write a story, paint, draw, sing, dance. Do it for the pure and simple joy of it. Do it to feel like you can. Do it to build confidence in yourself. Because when you discover that you can do one thing, what’s to stop you from doing all the other things you thought you couldn’t?
Nothing, that’s what. The sky’s the limit. So, go out there. Be magnificent!