Although Iâ€™m a musician, I havenâ€™t performed in public for 15 years.
Itâ€™s not about lack of opportunity; even if you arenâ€™t in a band there are plenty of open mic nights around if you want to grab an instrument and play. Itâ€™s mainly because of crippling stage fright, something I used to address with that musicianâ€™s crutch, alcohol. The longer I went without performing the more frightening the prospect became.
Last night, I played a short gig.
It wasnâ€™t just my first time performing in 15 years. It was my first since coming out, my first as a visibly trans woman, my first time standing in front of strangers under lights in a dress.
I had an icy blast of fear during the day, but it wasnâ€™t as bad as it used to be. Back then Iâ€™d be unable to concentrate all day, often nauseous and unable to eat because of the ice cold in the pit of my stomach. It would fade a bit once I was actually on stage, but the fight or flight response means that the most memorable gigs I ever played, I barely remember at all.
But last night I wasnâ€™t scared, just full of nervous excitement. I wasnâ€™t full of booze, either. Just two medicinal whiskys for a cold that was threatening to take my voice away. Iâ€™d intended to take beta blockers, but I decided not to. I simply wasnâ€™t as scared as I used to be.
While the gig itself was in sad circumstances and one of the songs bassist Kenny and I played is terribly sad, I loved every second of it. It helped that the room was a positive one, there like us to remember a friend. But even in less friendly environments there is a buzz you get from playing live, from connecting with strangers through songs you wrote in isolation, from opening your heart in a strange room at high volume. That all came rushing back last night.
Sometimes you donâ€™t realise youâ€™re missing something until you experience it again. Sometimes fear keeps you from the things you love, the things that give you life. For me, music is one of those things.