When I was 5, my mother forced me onto a stage to get me to sing.

Yes, it was traumatising. No, it wasn’t meant to be abusive. Did it plant a seed that would grow into something that was critical for my growth, character, and motivation for everything I did from then onwards? Yes.

For context, I began singing before I learned how to speak coherently, which obviously worried my parents, because they thought I had a language impairment or a learning deficiency. But they never doubted that I loved using my voice, which was very annoying to them, because while I was loud and persistent, I wasn’t very good at singing (at the time, at least).

While I loved music, I was painfully shy. So, when the opportunity presented itself, my mother plopped me on stage and told me to sing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” to a crowd that was at least 500 strong.

Guess what I did next?

If you thought that this was one of those inspirational stories where I miraculously started singing without fear and thanked my mum for pushing me out of my comfort zone, you guessed wrong. Of course I started crying. To my credit, I did sing the song to its completion; it was just a very tearful rendition.

But it did something in me. I don’t know whether it was that I had the innocence of a child, or the fact that nothing else could be more embarrassing than that experience, but I began to be less afraid of using my voice. I began to join singing competitions (and often left without a trophy) and do covers (which I then delete out of embarrassment), and actually actively pushed myself. And I grew.

Fast forward, specifically to the time of the pandemic. By this time, I had already released covers with some friends, took part in writing a couple of songs, and sang at my church almost every Sunday. I had been embracing my talents with all of the encouragement and guidance that everyone around me had so kindly given. But what I hadn’t realised at the time was that I had taken the ability to use my voice for granted. Being a bit of a toxic perfectionist, I would often give myself a difficult time for not being able to attain an impossibly high standard I set for myself, which led to burn out and eventually a disregard for my gift. That was until I caught COVID and lost my voice completely for 2 weeks, and then some.

It was beyond terrifying. I questioned everything that I was placed on this earth for. Essentially, I was experiencing an identity crisis. But it solidified the critical understanding that I had the responsibility to train and nurture what I was given, whether it is opportunity or talent.

Just like how it took my mother pushing me out of my comfort zone for me to start using my voice, it took COVID taking away my voice for me to appreciate what I could do. Sure, I feared failure and crowds, but now I know that nothing is more terrifying than giving up a passion when I still have breath in my lungs. And so while all of this began with someone pushing me out of my comfort zone, I now sing simply because I can.