“Don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear, Just sing, sing a song.”
One of the first songs I remember learning is Sing (Sing a Song) from Sesame Street. Its message has taken hold: I believe that singing is good for you.
I’ve had a few quiet periods in my life. Not just uneventful – genuinely quiet: During my second year of college, I could go three quarters of a day without speaking a word to anyone. I lived one and a half miles from classes. The nearest subway was half a mile away, and the more useful one still further. My building frequently smelled of weed, and my roommate spent a lot of time out with her 29-year-old boyfriend. My best friend devoted increasing amounts of time to her “He’s not my boyfriend” boyfriend. Because the dorm was so far from classes and reliable transportation so scarce, the effort involved in attending social events on campus felt enormous. I spent a lot of time alone, and walking alone. It wasn’t a great time for my emotional health.
And then I remembered to sing. At the most basic level, singing reminded me to breathe. It forced my lungs and my heart to work, it made me stand a little straighter or adjust the pattern of my stride. I sang quietly, but loud enough for my ears to pick up the sound. My whole chest buzzed with the vibrations of my voice. The fact that I was generally unaccustomed to speaking up made it a particularly good feeling. It helped just to know that someone else was able to put into words the way I felt, or that other moods were possible. Singing was more than a way to pass the time – it became a life raft.
The content of my music choice also had an effect on my mood. I rotated between Sting, Billy Joel, James Taylor, and songs from Seussical the Musical. These had the endorsement of my childhood, sounds streaming from my sister’s bedroom. (Seussical the Musical was, of course, a more recent addition to the repertoire, but the stories were already childhood favorites.) But one night, stressed out over a term paper and a bad week, I made a very bad music choice. A word to the wise: Colm Wilkinson may be an amazing performer, but the title song from Phantom of the Opera is not recommended listening for a dark and lonely night. Especially when played on loop for three hours. This is not to suggest that sad songs are, by definition, bad choices, but the hollow echo of that song made it a bad choice for the state I was in at the time. Music can change a bad mood, or it can amplify it. It is important to take note of which way your choices take you. I’ve learned to have one song available as a sure-fire mood repairer.
Seven years later, I am living a more social life. But I still sing. It’s just a good habit.
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