When I was 12, I went to Italy for two weeks with some family friends. We stayed in a beautiful old town called Terracina where history breathed in the cobbled streets and abandoned buildings. We would sit in the piazza late at night, my American friend and I, and hang out with the local teenagers who ruled the streets. And they would all talk and laugh and tell jokes and share stories. But I would just, sit there and try to understand. Because I couldn’t speak Italian.
The top of the cathedral steps was my spot, hidden slightly in the shadows of history and language. I hoped no one would talk to me directly because, what would I say? Instead, I looked out across the piazza, and I felt very far away from home. I didn’t know how to connect, so I didn’t.
One night, only a few days before we left to come back to the states, something amazing happened. A boy asked me, in very broken English, to sing the American national anthem. A hush fell over the group of teenagers as I slowly stood up to face them. With my heart absolutely pounding out of my chest I rose and put my hand on my heart, and sang.
It was not a beautiful performance. There was nothing particularly great about the way I sang it. I just sang it and then quickly sat back down. But there were genuine smiles from the other kids and boisterous clapping. When my nerves released, I asked him to sing the Italian National Anthem. So he did. With much confidence he stepped up in front of us all and belted out a very off-key and exaggerated performance of his beloved anthem, complete with a few dance moves and hand gestures.
Then, a few more voices chimed in, including mine! Without thinking, and without ever hearing this song before, I opened my mouth and sang along. Then a harmony rose up from over there somewhere, and the kid on that side started drumming. Yet another stood up and grabbed my friend to dance. An arm was thrown over my shoulder as I threw my arm around the kid to my left and we all swayed together, singing and laughing and drumming.
This was the summer that I found something that I did know existed. I found connection between people that I had previously felt very different from.
I found something profound that has shaped the path of my life ever since. I discovered the language of Music. Not written music, not music theory. Music with a capital M. The Music that has given me direction ever since. The Music that has turned into countless late night compositions and quiet walks in the woods. The Music that hums inside my heart, gently urging me to take action towards something that my head is too afraid to jump at. The Music that I whistle when I’m cooking. The Music that my daughter sings in the shower when she’s feeling oh-so good. Ever since this day, Music has been my compass.
This Music is not always melodic, usually it’s just a good or bad “vibe” (vibration = sound = music). You know the feeling. It’s the one in the pit of your stomach, telling you that person is not right for you. It’s the overwhelming sense of awe when you’re looking out over the grand canyon and you just feel so small in this Universe. It’s the vibe that is urging you to take that leap, introduce yourself, buy that book, sign up for that class, quit that job, say no, say yes, run NOW. It’s the energy that moves you ever forward on your own personal journey. This is the Music of your life singing you to your true north; your calling.
Do you listen? Maybe. Sometimes. But remember, you get to decide whether to listen or not. I wonder where your inner song will take you?