Before cake and cows, there was singing and Mickey Mouse (but this post isn’t about Mickey)

It has come to my attention that I haven’t written in a while. At first I was like, “Umm, I just blogged like a few days ago.” But then I checked and saw that it was a week ago. Wow, times flies when you’re… busier than usual and on the verge of another mental breakdown.

I don’t want to worry anyone unnecessarily. I can be quite histrionic. I know the word has a negative connotation, but I’ve always viewed it in a positive light. In my head, I’m the consummate performer, a mash-up of Carol Burnett and Julie Andrews (those two come to mind, mostly because my favorite consummate performer-cum-comedian, Stephen Colbert, mentioned them the other day).

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, I’ve been busy and kinda having a mental breakdown. Part of the reason is because the organization I work for is having one of their annual events this weekend and I will be coming to Chicago… to perform at this event!

Me speaking the last time I went to one of our organization’s events. I wasn’t singing in this, but oddly enough, I talked about my love for singing.


Initially, I wasn’t planning on attending this weekend’s event. But then, our Board President came to visit me last month (she drove 6 hours in a single day just to see me; frankly, I am still in shock). Somehow or another we came to discuss our mutual love of singing. I told her about the lifelong fractured relationship I’ve had with music. I’ve always loved signing – I like to say that I came out of the womb singing – but it wasn’t exactly encouraged. Luckily, I did relatively well in school, so most of my energy was spent on my incessant pre-exam/paper panic attacks instead of resentment.

But school never came naturally to me. I worked my butt off to maintain being a mere average “honors kid.” All my life, I’ve felt like an imposter academically. Graduating with a Master’s degree from My Dream School still hasn’t quelled those feelings.

But singing? Singing was my first and natural love, even if it remained, in a way, unrequited. I’ve always half-seriously lamented what I could have been if music were something that was encouraged growing up. I could have been a Broadway star! I still imagine myself starring as the first Muslim female character to appear in a Broadway musical (with hijab, she would have to be Muslim… or a nun… or a ninja). It could happen. They have a Muslim CoverGirl now! A decade ago, that would have been unfathomable.

BTW, I’m not saying that this should happen. But if it does, that part best not go to some… I will refrain from continuing that train of thought.

Anyway, back to life, back to reality (or “lalaty,” as I used to sing when I was younger). I told her about how I’ve intermittently been a member of choirs throughout my life, the brief phase when I was convinced that all forms of song were forbidden (I even refused to watch the film version of Les Miserables because of that, yes!), and then being encouraged to start singing again in grad school. I mentioned something about not feeling fulfilled with choral singing, because like I said, I am a performer and secretly want all eyes.. ears? on me. She then told me I should tell the Chairperson of this weekend’s event that I want to perform. I was like, yeah… no. I didn’t, thinking it was too presumptuous. I prefer to be asked. That way, if I suck, it’s on them.

I wasn’t sure if she would, but our President did actually speak with the Chair. And well, here I am. I will be performing a solo this weekend in front of many people who barely know me, some who know me and haven’t heard me sing, and my mom who always praises me no matter what.

I’m nervous, but not quite as nervous as I was the first time I sang a solo in public in over a decade, back in 2015 (the first time ever was in 2004 – I sang it “May It Be” from The Lord of the Rings soundtrack for my high school’s spring concert). It really wasn’t that long ago, but it seems forever ago. Since then, I’ve graduated, started wearing pants again, gotten married, moved to Indiana, and have completely mostly given up on academia (when I found out that Joe Biden will be taking a job at UPenn, I’ve been reconsidering it ;). I’m a different woman today. Kinda.

I know my performance will not be the mainstay Saturday evening, but I am nevertheless thrilled to get a chance to do something I really love and don’t get to do often. Singing is not like writing, which I can do quietly and on my own (readers are great, but I still journal for myself). Singing by its very nature must be shared, otherwise, to me anyway, it’s not quite the art it is meant to be. Though I’m always nervous before an actual performance, when I am actually singing, the Rafia who is always worrying about something disappears. When I am singing, I’m living up to the Rafia I fashion myself to be at my best moments.

That kind of pure passion? The only other time I feel that way is when I’m digging my spoon (ALWAYS a spoon) into a generous slice of some decadent chocolate cake ;)

6 thoughts on “Before cake and cows, there was singing and Mickey Mouse (but this post isn’t about Mickey)

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