Real self only found by taking risks

Excitement fills the air. The clinking of glasses being toasted slices the low hum of chatter as people mingle with their friends.
The anticipation for some patrons who have been here before on a Monday night rises while they await the merriment and carousing to begin. Those who are new to this scene just wait to see what will happen. I am a regular on Monday nights, knowing exactly what is to become of the evening, especially when my friends get up to the microphone.
Yes, it’s karaoke night at the Classic Cafe and Bar, the greatest time for people to take a risk, get up before a crowd and put their hearts and souls into performing their favorite songs. The number of individuals willing to get up to the microphone increases as the night goes on and first-timers realize they are safe to explore their dreams of being in the spotlight.
Karaoke virgins are amazing people to watch as their metamorphoses transpire. Newcomers to karaoke see that the atmosphere is warm and welcoming, at the same time tingling with enthusiasm and fervor. They realize that this is a safe haven to let go and realize their hidden passion for showcasing their vocal talents.
It is intriguing to see the transformation of friends who I coercively manage to bring along — the looks of awe as they walk into the bar and the sideways glances at me when they imagine what is going to take place later that evening. They question why I like it so much, why they are at a karaoke night to begin with and furtively peek at their watches to ascertain the earliest appropriate time to escape.
But then they see Jeri, the emcee for the evening, step up to the stage. Her welcoming smile and thoughtful words transform the antsy crowd into the comfortable superstars we always dreamed we could be. She introduces herself and explains how karaoke evening works, winking at those of us she sees on a regular basis. Jeri then sings a song to get the audience warmed up. She has settled the anxieties of the first-timers and gotten the rest of us ready for the night’s joviality.
My friends alien to karaoke at the Classic relax and mull over the songbooks, feeling the clash between their hearts and minds. They never imagined they would be here in the first place; why would they want to sing a song? But the mood transfixes them and Jeri’s soothing voice lures them to sign up for the spotlight.
I was once that friend who was enticed to sing as a stranger to the scene. It was a few months back when I first witnessed the positive atmosphere and excitement of karaoke night. Jeri often recalls how I sat quietly at the table that first night. “You were so shy!” she exclaimed to me this week at the hoopla. “You sure have changed!” She smiles at me and knows that she has done her job — she worked her magic and hooked yet another soul into her karaoke world.
The first night I attended karaoke at the Classic, I certainly never wanted nor intended to sing. Fortunately, my friends had other plans for me.
As any karaoke patron at this establishment will admit, after the first song you sing to the cheerful, supportive crowd, you can’t see why you would ever have been apprehensive in the first place. Friends and strangers scream and root you on. You are forced into another world where your dream of being a star has come true.
My premiere at the Classic was a solo — “You were meant for me,” by Jewel. It took me two hours to get up on that stage, and although I hadn’t sung in front of a crowd for more than three years, and that was with a full choir, I was at home. Jeri announced to the crowd that I had never sung karaoke at the Classic, winking at me as she started the music. The regulars at the bar let out cheers and encouraging comments, and my friends yelled out my name for motivation. I sang the song to my heart’s content, and leapt off the stage to a crowd full of smiling, cheering faces; my friends whooping it up for the newbie.
This is indicative of how all karaoke virgins are treated. It is the perfect opportunity to finally take a risk.
I brought a friend to karaoke a few weeks ago, and watched her shift from the I-don’t-want-to-be-here phase to a woman jamming and singing along to the tunes.
As a one-time karaoke-shunner, I empathize with the individuals who will never go up on stage. I was once that individual, but luckily I jumped off the cliff of safety into the river-rapids of adventure and excitement.
Billy Joel, my favorite recording artist, has it absolutely right in his song, “River of Dreams,” when he sings: “I must be looking for something/ Something sacred I lost/ But the river is wide/ And it’s too hard to cross.”
He’s correct; most of us aren’t willing to even try to cross that river. We just give up the hope of ever reaching the other bank, lose sight and eventually let go of our innermost dreams.
But every one of us has a chance to live our dreams, if only for a moment. Karaoke night is my turn to achieve euphoria. I may not be treading through the rocks, weeds and torrents of that wide, rapid-filled river, but I am building a bridge for myself to get to the other side in order to realize my dream.
I know that I am not going to be a famous singer on Broadway or on the radio like I once dreamed in childhood, but at karaoke night with Jeri, friends and strangers, I can still stand in the spotlight — and have a fabulous time in the process.
Most of us have chosen the responsible route for our lives, not realizing that the dreams we had to be superstars gradually faded away until they were all but gone. These fantasies get tucked deep inside, in the subconscious, and the only way they are realized is if you are brave enough to take the risk and try.
Karaoke might be my outlet to living my fantasy, but every person has the opportunity to venture into situations like this and take risks to live their dreams. If only for a few minutes a week, build a path to your bank across the river where you left your innermost fantasies. Find an outlet where you can actualize your dreams. Conquer your fears of taking that risk and let go for a moment each week. What do you have to lose?
Kyle Ann Christian is a senior copy editor at the Daily. She welcomes comments to [email protected]