I Hope You Dance

I don't know who took this.I know only that it's perfect.
I don’t know who took this.
I know only that it’s perfect.

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder. You get your fill to eat, but always keep that hunger. May you never take one single breath for granted. God forbid love ever leave you empty-handed. I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean. Whenever one door closes, I hope that one more opens. Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance. And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance…I hope you dance!

– Songwriters: Sanders, Mark D.; Sillers, Tia

I’m not a country-music fan. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just not music I care for. I do hear songs now and again that are classed as country that I like, because good music is good music, but I wouldn’t be able to spend my day listening to a country-music station. Okay, let’s be honest, this is only considered country because of the artist, and maybe the slide guitar in the background. It’s pop. The message, though, that’s fantastic. If I were more musically-creative or adventurous, I might try to put the lyrics to different music. I’m not that person. And I’m okay with that. Less okay than some people would be, I mean, I do have a degree in music for crying out loud, I should have some creative ability, but apparently, I just don’t, not even to really ornament a vocal piece, although I’ve gotten a lot better at that over the years, spontaneous creation in music just isn’t something I was really exposed to or practiced, but I can speak extemporaneously on nearly any subject even when I don’t know what I’m talking about, which is more often than it seems, and I could do improv on the streets no problem…

Right, the point. Sorry.

The lyrics in this song are about taking chances, about believing in yourself. And while the writer may have intended “faith” to mean faith in a higher power, I don’t see it that way. To me, it’s faith in yourself, faith in your own abilities. And it’s something I’ve had cause to question in myself for a lot of years.

I never really had the support of my parents in my artistic endeavors. They’d show up to my concerts, which is more than some parents would do, especially divorced ones, and take me to rehearsals. My father even came to my senior concert in college, full of music he didn’t care for. That was cool. My mother couldn’t, otherwise, she’d have been there, too. So as far as that goes, yes, I did have their support. But it didn’t go beyond that. And maybe that would have been fine, too, except the support went the opposite direction from my mother.

I won’t get into the details – I don’t like talking about it, makes me feel like I’m whining, but her words did have a HUGE impact on how I felt about my singing. Even when I did finally decide on a music major in college, and earlier in high school when I decided to really work on my vocals, her words stayed with me and held me back. Sure, you could say I “let” her hold me back, and you’d be correct to an extent. But c’mon, the opinion of a parent is far more powerful than just about anyone else’s. I’m lucky  my parents loved me, otherwise, I’d probably be in worse shape.

Mom’s parents weren’t supportive of her music, either. She decided at some point that she wanted to learn to play the clarinet. Her parents weren’t going to buy her one, or pay for lessons, or even take her to lessons. Growing up in rural Indiana, it would seem something that she would just have to give up, try later in life. But no, she found a way to get a clarinet, found someone to give her lessons, and found a way to get there. She was determined. She played in college, too, making 2nd chair at Purdue University in their wind ensemble/marching band, at a time when women weren’t allowed to march. During the marching band season, she couldn’t play. She played the opening in Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” in concert while she was in that band. Unfortunately, she failed out of college (as I almost did, and for about the same reasons), so she didn’t get to go any further.

Because of her experiences, she grew up believing that if you really wanted something, you’d do just about anything to get it, even if everyone was against you. And that’s true, that’s absolutely true. But it’s also true that people are different, and some are more independent than others. It’s true that two people with the same upbringing can react differently, flourishing in spite of it, or crumbling under it. And it’s also true that if your parent constantly tells you how inferior you are musically, constantly criticizes your voice and ability, well, it’s kind of hard to want to go for it. She was very critical of me, my mother was, and not just in music. And maybe if I’d been a different person, maybe if I’d had different experiences in my life from other areas, I’d have gone for it anyway, and I’d be a famous vocalist of some sort. Maybe I’d be headlining at the Met, or at least Cincinnati Opera (which is not really a step down), for all I know. Or maybe I was never going to get beyond the chorus in some smaller town like Middletown. What I do know is I barely had the courage to try. It took forever to convince my mother to allow me to audition at my eventual high school. My brother had started there in the 4th grade. It did make high school the best four years of my life. It’s not the place it used to be, but there are people trying to make it so.

I just like this one. It was fun to shoot.
I just like this one. It was fun to shoot.

Music wasn’t my only driving passion. I wanted to go to Broadway and try and make it there. I was told I didn’t have the hunger. By my mother. I was told I didn’t have the talent. By my mother. I was told I’d never make it, and I was wasting my time. By my mother. And I believed her. I wanted to write, become a journalist like my grandmother. No, I don’t write well enough to do that. I thought maybe photography was my game. No, you’re only okay, your photographs are nothing special. Keep it as a hobby. You’re smart – focus on your academics. Go into business. Be a manager. Try to be a CEO. Start a company. Do something sensible, instead of trying to be artistic all the time. It’s too hard to do anything artistic for a living, and you’re not good enough in anything. Don’t waste your time.

I wasted a lot of years trying to figure out what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. I spent a lot of years trying to overcome things my mother said to me. I still have some work to do, and some things to accept. I’m never going to be a famous singer. I don’t have the discipline. I had voice teachers try to ingrain that in me, but I wasn’t ready to listen. It’s highly unlikely I’m going to be a famous artist of any sort, now. Not impossible, not until I’m dead, but highly unlikely.

So how does that all relate to this song? Well, I might not be able to follow my dreams anymore, not the ones of my youth, but I can make new ones and follow them. Lucille Ball was in her 40s when I Love Lucy finally hit the airwaves. Colonel Sanders was retirement age, and had experienced many failures when Kentucky Fried Chicken took off. I can make new dreams. But I can’t do anything with them if I don’t take the chance. If I don’t dance.

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4 thoughts on “I Hope You Dance

  1. Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after browsing through many of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely happy I stumbled upon it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back frequently!

  2. May I simply just say what a relief to find somebody that genuinely knows what they are discussing online. You certainly understand how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More and more people must read this and understand this side of your story. I was surprised you’re not more popular given that you certainly possess the gift.

  3. Today, I went to the beach front with my kids. I found a sea shell
    and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and
    screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her
    ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic but
    I had to tell someone!

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