Let's back up a little.
I have always loved to sing. I can remember my mother sitting at the piano smiling while I matched with my voice the notes she played. *She was even a member of Sweet Adelines, a traveling singing group that made the church circuit - I thought she was a rock star. I grew up listening to her sing her way through the house and I've always done the same. I was the little girl in children's choir who got the solo at the Christmas concert at church, and if chorus was an option at school, I was in.
Enter adolescence and the flush of hormones that turn every kid on their head and I quickly grew too self-conscious to let anyone hear me sing anymore. In church I'd grown up with these people and there was a sense of safety when I stood on the stage and sang my little heart out. In school, however, I never auditioned for the solo because I didn't want to stand out, preferring to hide in the small sea of elementary voices that surrounded me. When my elementary years ran out, middle school didn't offer any opportunities to sing, and when I entered high school I was too shy to seek them out. But isn't this one of the very reasons we love movies so much? To not only buy into the story, but imagine ourselves within the realm of another reality for a couple hours?
I was 14 years old when Empire Records came out. My best friend and I rented the tape and watched it at least four times over the course of one weekend. (Keep in mind that this was in the day of rewinding the movie when you were done, so clearly this movie spoke to us in special ways for us to rewind it several times just to watch it again. I can't even imagine rewinding anything these days, who has the time?) As with all Generation X teen flicks, we saw ourselves in the characters and felt their plight to the depths of our tortured, teenaged souls. Damn the man!
I wanted to be Corey, so oblivious to her pouty-lipped beauty but cool at the same time, while the sweet, slightly insecure, and properly grungy-hot A.J. fumbles after her in an attempt to reveal his love for her by 1:37pm. (You have to respect a boy with goals.)
This was the moment I - and probably most other viewers - fell in love with Gina, not only because it's a relief to see the girl who seems to have it all under control really doesn't, but also because she overcomes her fears about singing in front of people and stands on that marquee and belts out lyrics to 'Sugar High' while the band plays around her at the finale scene where the people rise up to save the independent record store that is Empire Records! It's glorious and since 1995, any time I listen to the Empire Records Soundtrack and that song comes on, I sing Gina's parts loud and proud, pretending for a moment that I have the courage to sing from atop a lit marquee, too.
As long as no one else is home.
I still love to sing whenever I can, whether I'm in the car, in the shower, at my desk with iTunes blasting or making up silly songs to describe what I'm doing. Singing the words to a song that you connect with does something beautifully cathartic, and sometimes when I really need to tap into a certain emotion, whether to deal with something personal or get into the right headspace for writing a certain scene, all I need to do is play the right song and the room fills.
This train of thought was brought on by a recent post by a favorite blogger of mine, in which she discusses her fantasy job that she knows she'd suck at. The Cat Lady closes the post posing the question to her readers, What is your secret fantasy career that you know you’d be awful at? Well, Natalie, let me tell you...
Being aware that a career in singing would be a terrible move doesn't mean that I'm failing to believe in myself, I'm just realistic. I can carry a tune, and I admit that I have the ability to sing certain songs pretty well, but I lack the proper pipes and guts to pursue anything outside of my house. And it isn't that I'm not going after a dream, because I may fantasize about singing in a band like Gina, but my true dream is to be a successful writer. Singing is something I'll always do, but writing is something that defines me.
I think it's healthy to hold onto slightly unrealistic fantasies to keep our hearts hopeful and imaginations limber, just as long as we don't lose touch with reality and in turn, lose ourselves to the pursuit of a shattered dream waiting to happen. Some people find out what was once slightly unrealistic is really their true calling in life, but for the rest of us, it's fun to pretend between moments of stupid adult responsibility and what is sometimes a dull reality.
Because wouldn't it be great if we could all end our days dancing in triumph on the rooftop of an independent record store behind the glorious neon glow of its sign?
Yeah, I think so, too.
*See the next post, Your Memory is a Liar, for the correction to this slightly fudged memory.