“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I will sing out loud.

I stood with my fourth-grade class and sang the national anthem with my head held high. Our teacher paced up and down, frowning, and said, “Someone sounds like a frog.” Everyone stopped mid-sentence. Some looked scared, others giggled. I looked around, wondering which of my classmates would get pulled out of the upcoming Independence Day celebrations.

It was me.

My voice, along with my confidence and spontaneity, quickly disappeared. I stopped singing in the shower. I bobbed my head when my favorite song came on the radio, unlearning how to hum. I began to lip-sync “Happy Birthday” when my loved ones cut their birthday cakes. 

For the last two decades, I naively mistook my fear for strength. I took pride in suppressing my weakness. I repeatedly reminded myself that this is how I would build character. 

Today, I know that I am wrong.

I will allow myself to be vulnerable.

I will sing out loud again

— Shreya Saraf