Sometimes I Feel Like a Clown
I played at a venue recently where I felt like a clown. The kind of clown that performs his routine perfectly but none of the kids actually are paying attention to him and the adults looking at him feel sorry for him.
That’s exactly how I felt. There were a lot of people at this venue but everyone was laughing and talking amongst themselves and they were extremely loud. Their loudness was like a beast sitting in the middle of the room eating my music for dinner. Instead of my music reaching the people, it went into the belly of this noise beast. I wished I could make it easier on everyone and go hide under my rock. But I knew I couldn't do that because I committed to the venue that I would be there for a certain period of time and the night had just begun. I would go as far as to wager that if I wasn’t there entertaining, the people wouldn’t even notice.
Thankfully, there was this one table of people in the very front who hung to every melody that came out of my mouth. They would turn around every once in a while and glance toward the loud tables behind them. I wondered to myself what they might be thinking. Did they feel as out of place as I did? Were they annoyed by the loud chattering? Could they even hear me singing? Did they feel sorry for me?
I found myself staring back at them as we connected amid the unfriendly ambience. Could they somehow sense the feelings of rejection and loneliness that I felt. I shuttered at that thought and tried not to look at them as much. I had made up in my mind that looking at them too much would somehow make them responsible for the other people ignoring me. So I also looked out into the crowd at some imaginary people. There were two groups. One was a family. A mother and a father with three young children. The other group was two young couples on a double date. These pretend people applauded me at the end of every song. They were singing along and the kids were dancing to the music. I smiled at them and they smiled back. They were there the entire time and they were by best friends for the night. They made me laugh, partly at myself for having to imagine them into existence in the first place. They consoled me and made me feel appreciated and wanted in spite of what was going on in the real world around me.
There are a lot of circumstances where I have to temporarily disconnect from reality in order to make my way through it. One time I took an adventure tour through a cave in Belize. It was dark and cold and we were walking through water, clinging to walls, climbing boulders, and crawling through tiny spaces. This cave was preserved as much as possible and not for the faint at heart. As I traversed my way through this cave, we had gotten to a point where we had to walk along a tiny slippery ledge so as to not fall off into the river. As I held on to the wall with both hands making sure my feet landed on the ledge with each step I saw a crab right next to my hand also on the wall. It scared the bejeezus out of me and within a millisecond I felt a force of adrenaline spark in my chest like a match. I stopped to take a quick breath and mentally blew the adrenaline match out by pretending the spider was simply a prop. I placed one foot in front of the other and moved on. I created an alternate reality for myself so I could get through that moment.
As a performer, things can get pretty scary and uncertain. Reality can seem impossible. Sometimes this job is not appreciated and you end up in the wrong environment. It too is not for the faint at heart.
Out of all the jobs a clown can take, why does he choose to be a clown? Is it for the money or is it for the personal connection he makes with each person who receives the little piece of life he brings? Right now I can't see myself not doing music. Not when people are telling me that my song inspired them to follow their dreams and become an author, or that it helped them get through a very rough time in life, or that it reminded them of being home. It's very important work. If that makes me a clown from time to time, so be it.