My Journey Out

By Clarissa Worley Sproul

Photo by Dreamstime

I write music; always have. Since I was four years old and teaching my sisters the lyrics to my first hit, “sister came and popped a wheelie,” I’ve been writing and arranging songs here and there and everywhere. Have a bad day, write a song, have a good day, write a song. Miss my family, write a song, sister gets married, write a really, really good song. No matter what, I always had music to keep record of things.

What’s funny is that I never really started sharing my music with the people outside of my bedroom until I was finishing high school. Even then it was maybe once or twice a year — like for graduation or something. Being a very private person on the inside, I guess I felt music was my way of talking to myself and sharing that would be terrifying.

All through college I sang and wrote. I’d go to the chapel in the dormitory I lived in after evening worship was over and I’d play and sing and sing and play and write and cry and grin; on and on for hours at a time. It was a most cathartic and freeing tradition. And for all my love of music none of my college friends ever guessed I could even carry a tune.

After college and then Seminary and then ten years of working hard, I decided it was time for me to drag myself out of my little hidden music world. I quit my job and downsized my little apartment so I could take voice lessons and record some of my music for at least a year or so without having to get a job at one of the five Starbucks in my neighborhood. I was elated, scared to death, but mostly determined.

Singing my own music publicly was not fun at first. I had so much fear. I had so much insecurity. Most times I’d end up not singing like I did when I was alone. Instead out would come a sound I’d heard on the radio down through the years or worse yet, a sound I hated because it didn’t sound like anything at all — what I came to call my beige-voice.

Basically I had to bring myself out in pieces, performance by performance. Sometimes I’d rock the song with my natural voice, only to forget the words I’d written or the arrangement I’d practiced a million times. Other times I’d get all the music out as planned but with the emotion of a mud puddle. It seemed there was always a part of me that refused to show itself. This made me feel bad, ashamed and defeated — even if everybody was clapping and smiling. I was sure they could see I needed encouraging — oh, those generous people.

But then, alas, there came the day when all of me showed up at the same time. I sang, I felt, I played and all at once. A few weeks later it happened again. Then again and again. This was the most wonderful place to be. No more pulling the carpet out from under myself onstage. I could actually plan on the music being what it was — and then see it through. Exhausted by my own very public version of Russian roulette, I was relieved. I could actually count on myself no matter what the venue, the sound system or the audience might throw at me. None of me was hiding.

I’ll never forget the day this realization sunk in. I was on stage belting out the second verse and pounding (yes pounding — my weakness) on the piano, when suddenly it was like I was watching myself play in my mind. And I was watching the people in the room and seeing their emotion and thinking about how simple and real this all was and how connected I felt. I don’t even remember finishing the song. I had moved beyond it, after all, to experience its purpose.

And in those moments where I hung suspended in time, I could see all the way back to me singing alone in the woods or scribbling rhyming words down in a book. I could see how far I had come. And even more than that, I could see for the first time how the journey out of isolation and hidden-ness can play out, what it will cost, and that it is really, very worth the effort.

So how about it? I don’t know what your journey is. What part of you is hidden or unknown — maybe even to you, but I do know that it’s your birthright to explore and express all that God has put in you so you can share it with the rest of us.