Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it.
~ Salvador Dali
They say that nobody is perfect.
Then they tell you that practice makes perfect.
I wish they'd make up their minds.
~ Winston Churchill
I walked into the auditorium for a sound-check to the soul-ful melody of Hallelujah, paused by the emotion hinting at wisdom and experience beyond the years of this young musician. “I have to share a stage with her tonight?” I thought nervously.
Truth was, I had not practised my own songs nearly as much as I normally like to before performing. One had only been selected and learned two days before this anniversary celebration of a community I had grown up in. And it had been months since I'd stepped on stage, guitar in hand, to perform; much longer since I'd played piano in front of an audience. As I walked on stage later that day, the last thought that ran through my head was “Well, it is what it is. They won't be perfect, but here I go anyway!” My fingers stumbled over some of the guitar chords, my voice wavered on a few notes, and I got lost once or twice at the piano keys. But I'm pretty sure no one noticed except me.
Evidenced by my sister-in-law's comments afterwards: I think that's one of the best performances of yours that I've seen. You seemed relaxed, and like you were really enjoying yourself up there!
While I'm not sure I could agree on the first part, I did realize with her comment that it probably was one of my most enjoyable performances. With my final thoughts stepping on stage I had taken away the internal pressure to be perfect and let the music and performance be what it was going to be. I let myself get lost in the experience. Something that my previous performance anxieties and slightly perfectionist tendencies have not always allowed me to do.
This 2-month old experience came flooding back to me just the other week during a conversation with a friend about wanting a particular situation to be perfect. Perfect is over-rated, I said. There is often so much more fun to be had in the messy, raw, possibly-mistake-ridden realness that comes out of being authentic, present, and true to self. Stripping away the pressure and expectation, allowing the experience to unfold as it will.
Wanting to live out those words, and knowing that singing is typically where I experience the most anxiety about performing perfectly, I took some risks at the karaoke bar shortly after. I sang songs that I usually shy away from while ignoring the voice in my head that cautioned my laryngitis-recovering vocal chords. The next week I jumped on stage at an open-mic night without having rehearsed recently at all. Neither experience went perfectly well... but no one seemed to care. And I had fun!
These experiences have left me with a desire to practice less and perform more – both literally with music, and metaphorically in other areas of my life.
I want to find more enjoyment in getting lost in a moment that unfolds in all the messy, mistake-ridden, authentic ways that it will. Because perfect really is over-rated!