When the World Whispers by Katrina Mae

Written by Katrina Mae. There was once a girl who lived in a small town; clinging ever so tightly to her past and to her fears. Together with self-doubt, she would overlook her talents, dismiss her gifts and ignore her true potential so she could carry on and live a life unnoticed by the rest…

Written by Katrina Mae.

There was once a girl who lived in a small town; clinging ever so tightly to her past and to her fears. Together with self-doubt, she would overlook her talents, dismiss her gifts and ignore her true potential so she could carry on and live a life unnoticed by the rest of the world. THE END.

Okay, so that girl was me and that was almost going to be my story…. until the day I realized I was the one writing the darn thing.

I was eighteen years of age and working full-time in a local factory in a small town. Every day the siren would go off signaling for my work day to commence, or my lunch break to start or my day to end. That sound measured the lack of control I actually had over my life; period. It was always present.

Doing this kind of activity every day in this particular environment will either make you or break you. And I’ll be the first to say, it was breaking me. I’d moved out of the family home at fifteen years of age and into a youth accommodation house because I couldn’t find enough positive reasons to stay. The home environment was doing its best to put me in my place and I was rebelling yet struggling with its hold over me. I wanted to see more than what was being laid out before me but there was no-one to tell me otherwise or that things could ever be any different. When I was sixteen, a conversation with a social worker would be the kick-starter to my awakening. You see, when I was growing up and things got tough at home I’d go into my room, close the door and sing. I’d sing and sing and sing some more. That was my happy place and no-one could touch it.

While I was a teenager living out of the family home, a social worker asked me about what I wanted to do with my life. This was the moment when I thought, okay… it’s time to be brave! So, I tell her, I want to sing! Well, the laugh she had that day is still in my mind today. I remember her turning to me and saying ‘Oh Katrina, what are you really going to do with your life? You’re being ridiculous.’ I don’t think I even responded to her. I do know I thought about being a social worker to prevent that from ever happening to someone else.

Fast forward to the factory again and I can recall another one of those moments. I had been discouraged in the past from singing (or telling anyone that I did) so I needed to accept that I was destined to live out my days in this town and at this job. Why didn’t it feel right though? So, I started to read books. I read every self-help, personal development, psychological, spiritual book I could get my factory hands on. And a simple line in a book one day that said ‘You are not your past’ kicked the living crap out of me!

It was around this time that I ventured inward in such a way that people at the factory had started to wonder if there was something wrong with me or if I was standoffish because I thought I was better than everyone else. I remember saying ‘I would never think I was better than those around me, I just want more for my life than this’. To me, it was that simple. I just wanted something different. But that was never accepted by my colleagues and I was told very clearly one day ‘Give it up girl. You’ll be here ‘til you’re old and grey just like the rest of us’.

So, I continued to play my part in this notion and for over two years I carried on with this role while secretly working on my own internal dialogue so that one day I just might be daring enough to think my way out of the life I had found myself in.

The day of the goosebumps.

First of all, I’ll just explain what that means to me. I’m sure you’ve all experienced it hundreds of times. It’s that moment when you get the good kind of chills or the hairs on your skin stand up. That moment when something resonates to your very core as the truth. Every time I get those chills I know that what I am hearing or seeing is so real and so right that it cannot be ignored. I love when that happens.

On this particular day, I was just having a lazy day on the couch sipping my cup of tea. There was a newspaper sitting on the coffee table, which is rare because I never read newspapers. Especially this one because the pages are so ridiculously large that you’ve got to sit on the floor so you can turn the pages comfortably to actually read the content. It’s like a workout.

I began to flip the pages with very little interest until I stumbled upon a logo that appeared to be staring right at me. It instantly made me sit up and want to sing! I had seen this famous logo before but certainly not in the employment section of a newspaper. It was a job posting for the biggest television station in the country and I swear it felt like their advertisement was trying to jump right off the page and grab a physical hold of me. I guess it would be fair to say it definitely got my attention and so I continued to read.

“Lighting Technician needed. Must have experience in all aspects of television both live and recorded. Variety shows, games shows, drama, etc. Studio and location experience required.”

I can’t explain exactly what came over me that day but I literally paused within that moment in time. That logo, the one I had seen on TV since I was a child, had captivated me in a way I had never experienced before. And talk about goosebumps! I quickly grabbed some paper and a pen and just started writing whatever came to my mind. It was probably the easiest application letter I had ever written because I just spoke from the heart. I knew I didn’t have experience so I had absolutely nothing to lose. I know that I did include in the letter how unfulfilled I was in my current job and with my life in general and managed to articulate that if I was considered for such a role, I’d be the best darn Lighting Technician they’d ever seen.

The next day when I went to work at the factory, I asked the manager to post my letter with the outgoing mail… and that was that. As strange as it might sound, when a couple of months had passed, I had completely forgotten I had even sent that letter, until one day I came home from work and noticed the answering machine light was flashing. (Yes, those were the days of handwritten letters and answering machines).

I pressed play and could not believe what I was hearing. It was the Lighting Director from the television station, asking me to come in for an interview and discuss the position further. I dropped to the floor. Once I had regained my composure, I wiped away my happy tears and did what most girls would do; I called my mother. I told her that there was no way I could drive myself to the interview because I knew what a huge opportunity it was and therefore my adrenaline, my excitement and my fear, would be best seated at the passenger side of the vehicle so she would need to take the day off work and drive me there. She said what most mothers would say, ‘Of course I’ll take you’.

The day of the interview arrived and I felt pretty much exactly how I had predicted. It was a wise decision not to drive. Mum dropped me off right out front of the studio with plenty of time for me to contain the many mixed emotions that were now circulating my body and the thousands of thoughts that were running around in my head.

Walking into the reception area was surreal. I was in awe of the larger than life-sized photos surrounding me that covered every inch of the wall, full of so many television personalities I had grown up watching on TV ever since I can remember.

To be perfectly honest, the last thing on my mind was a Lighting Technician job; I had stars in my eyes and I was thinking of nothing but singing.

It wasn’t too long before the Lighting Director came down to greet me. He pleasantly said hello, I shook his hand and then proceeded to follow him through the corridor to his office and then we both took a seat. I don’t remember how long the interview lasted but what stood out to me the most was when he explained that over one hundred people had applied for the position and they had selected ten to meet with for an interview. Out of the nine other applicants, they were all experienced in the lighting industry and either worked for other television stations and wanted to get their foot in the door here, or they were lighting tech students. And then there was me.

I knew it was a long shot, but a letter I had written from the heart had taken me this far so now I needed to speak directly from the heart in this very moment. So, I focused and I spoke my truth. I told him exactly what I was thinking; that the odds were against me to even be here. Television stations never advertise vacant positions and I never read advertisements. The fact that I was selected out of one hundred other hopefuls was enough for me to know that for some reason I needed to be here and that I simply couldn’t imagine being so close to an opportunity of a lifetime, that could potentially change the very course of my life, and not be offered this position. I asked him, ‘If I don’t get this job, how do I go back to my everyday, mediocre life, knowing that I came this close? What do I do with that?’ I think I might have stumped him. I kept sharing whatever was wanting to come out of my mouth and I know I articulated it in a way that was honest, vulnerable, real and most importantly enthusiastic. I always get excited like that when I’m talking about what matters to me the most and what I am qualified in, and I am definitely qualified in knowing my own heart.

Anyway, that was the interview that changed the course of my life. As fate would have it, I was offered the lighting position. The Lighting Director would later tell me that even with nine qualified applicants and with his lighting crew begging him not to hire a girl, he hired me anyway. In his own words, he had once said, ‘There was just something about you and I couldn’t say no’.

And so my new life began. Not only did I resign from my job at the factory but I also left the town and moved to a beautiful house in one of my favorite neighborhoods. I was finally beginning to create and design the life I had always dreamed of and I could not have been any happier. Or could I?

Well, if truth be told, it turns out that I was, in fact, the worst Lighting Technician of all time! Hands down.

Nothing about lighting spoke to me. As time went on, nothing was sinking in and for some reason, the crew was not willing to teach me anything. The Lighting Director had thrown me right in there, which can sometimes be the best thing for you, but because of the crew’s resentment about a girl being hired, he might as well have fed me to the sharks. I hardly ever saw him; he just handed me over to his unwelcoming crew.

I was also not expecting the physically demanding work the job required. Climbing up and down ladders eight to fourteen hours a day, carrying two lights at a time (one in each hand) using only your legs to balance with, as you make your way to the top of the ladder, is not as easy as you might think. Imagine you are holding two small microwaves, one under each arm. Now climb to the top of the ladder with no free hands, using only your legs to lift your weight and the weight of these two microwaves. Sometimes you’ll nearly fall but most times you just have to lean in closer to the ladder, scraping and bruising your shins at almost every rung, as you continue to climb to the top. It is very painful on the body and within a short amount of time, I’d lost over 15kg (30 lbs.) until eventually, I became both physically and emotionally exhausted.

Months passed and I didn’t have a clue what was going on half the time so I stayed out of the way or kept myself busy watching all the singers. That was the only time I ever felt happy on the job; when there was music. As time went on I would often zone out when the crew were yelling at me for some reason or another and I’d just let myself get lost in a song that someone was performing on a particular show we were lighting that day. Eventually the more performances I watched the more disinterested in lighting I became and the more intrigued I was about my own desire to sing. It was around this time that I really began to consider the possibility that maybe one day I could sing on that stage too.

The main problem I was facing was when I imagined myself getting up there to sing, I would start to feel anxious and get butterflies; not the good kind. The kind that made me feel sick to my stomach, sort of like food poisoning but it’s more like fear poisoning. The same kind of butterflies that had prevented me from being able to sing in front of people comfortably my whole life. I was still unable to sing in front of my best friend without getting nervous, so I knew I would need to do some serious internal work if I was going to get to the core of this underlying issue. The seed of self-doubt is sometimes buried so deep. It’s like an ingrown hair far beneath the surface, causing so much unnecessary pain. Our job is to get right in there, grab a good hold of it and pull that little bugger out!

However, my priority at this point was to try and soldier on every day while the crew’s hostility towards me kept getting worse. Some days I was yelled at in front of the entire crew and other days there was usually this one guy that liked to pull me aside just to ask me if I was an idiot. Nice hey? They were relentless, but me being the minority, I had to ask myself, what am I doing wrong here? Why do these people hate me so much? How can they be so cruel? On the days when the name calling got too much, I would sneak off to the bathroom and just cry. Then I would pick myself up, brush myself off and get back out there. I was not going to cave. I had bigger fish to fry, I just had to figure out exactly what that meant.

During this challenging time in my work environment, I decided I would set myself a personal goal for the simple reason that it would make me feel happier. I had been having this bizarre experience while driving to work. I kept hearing a particular song on the radio and every time it played, this strange feeling would come over me and then I would get the goosebumps. It was really odd and I was so intrigued by how the song made me feel, that I decided to act on it. I learned the song, booked myself a session at a recording studio and made a demo. It was my first time in a professional studio with my very own recording engineer.

It was such a wonderful distraction from my current reality and every time I listened to my recording, it took me to my happy place.

One day I came into work and noticed that a large group of my colleagues were all huddled around in conversation. Usually, they’d be hanging upside down in the lighting grid by now. I said good morning as I normally would and then put my belongings away. Just as I was about to ask who I was working with today, one of the lighting crew came over and told me that today’s show had been canceled. He then went on to explain that it wasn’t only today’s show but the show had been canceled indefinitely due to low ratings. I remember feeling kind of glad that this particular show got axed because it had the most ridiculous start time out of all their TV shows. Every week we would record five episodes in one day and I would have to be at the studio by 4am. I certainly wasn’t going to miss working on that show. He then told me there wouldn’t be much work for us to do today and also added that I needed to see the lighting director in his office.

I made my way to the office where I found him sitting at his desk sipping his coffee. He smiled pleasantly and told me to come in and take a seat. He then proceeded to talk about the show that had just been canceled and how it was looking likely that another one would soon follow. I don’t remember exactly when the conversation started to take a turn, but I think I zoned out for most of it. I recall catching the last few words of his sentence. Something along the lines of not having enough hours for everyone in the lighting department because of the show’s cancellation and since I was the last one hired it was only fair that I’d be the first one fired. I know those weren’t his exact words, but you do understand where I’m going here? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Was this really happening? Did I really undertake six of the toughest months of my life, both physically and emotionally, for absolutely nothing? Immediately I began to have flashbacks of all the abusive behavior from the lighting team. All the tears I had hidden from them in the bathroom and the pile of crushed dreams that I never got the chance to explore. I felt sick to my stomach that I had never spoken up about the mistreatment that had gone on within the lighting department and I was disappointed in myself that I had failed to mention to the Lighting Director that he had thrown me to the sharks and none of his guys had been welcoming from the start or gave me the proper training I needed. I couldn’t comprehend why I even needed to have this experience if this was the outcome. Then I asked him, ‘What is the point of any of this? Why go through all the crap I have been putting up with for months? And why even get the job in the first place out of one hundred people? For this? Please, tell me what the lesson is here that I am supposed to learn?’ He just stared at me for a few seconds and then responded in a way I’ll never forget. He said, ‘Well Katrina, sometimes life’s just shit’. What? Did he really say that? Wow…. that’s deep. Then I stood up and walked out of his office, knowing that I was the one that would need to figure that out for myself.

The good news was, they did the respectful thing and gave me two weeks’ notice. At least I had some time to prepare. It was probably around a week before my last day when a conversation took place between me and the Lighting Director’s Assistant. He said, ‘At the end of the day Katrina, you did well. I mean, at least you hung in there’. I thought it was a rather odd thing for him to say but it was the nicest thing anyone from the lighting department had ever said to me, so I thanked him for that. He then admitted to me that the lighting crew were all working together, trying to push me to my limits with the intention that they would be able to break me down, to the point where I would want to quit. They were actually conspiring together, working on ways to get me to crack under pressure. I couldn’t believe my ears. I didn’t respond though. Now it was all making sense. I had been in absolute denial this whole time because I was so scared that if I screwed up this opportunity, I would have to return to the unfulfilled life I once had and I most definitely could kiss goodbye any chance of singing at this type of level. I continued to reflect on the past six months of my time in the lighting department and I could clearly see all the mistreatment and verbal abuse that was thrown at me every day from more than twenty grown men that didn’t want a girl on their team. I could see it all. This was actually a freeing moment for me because I could finally allow myself not to like them. I had been ignoring their antics and trying to win them over for months and now it was so obvious that I had been dealing with a bunch of bullies and I never stood a chance.

One thing I am now most proud of is the fact that I never gave up. After coming to terms that a plot to get rid of me really did exist, I felt like a million bucks! I realized what lengths I was willing to go, for me to stay where I felt I needed to be, for reasons far greater than I could comprehend. I felt like a Queen whose enemies had tried to bring her down but with all the shots being fired, they missed and I stood my ground. In the end, I might have been laid off from my job, but I never quit and I never let them break me.

After the realization that I was not the unlikable, useless lighting girl that I had come to believe, I started to feel a strength emerge within me. In my last few days working in the lighting department, I didn’t go out of my way to be nice to anyone. I certainly wasn’t hostile towards my soon-to-be ex-colleagues; I just didn’t bother with them. In the end, they had failed to reach my standards of self-respect. The last couple of days were bittersweet. I did feel great that soon I would never have to do this physically demanding job again. I guess you could say that I understood why it was a male-dominated industry and I certainly wouldn’t miss the fourteen-hour shifts or having my heartstrings pulled at every time I watched the singers doing their thing. However, I felt sad too. I had a very strong feeling that there was a missed opportunity here; something I had failed to see or do. Not many people have access to some of the most influential people in the TV industry and although I didn’t deal with anyone besides the lighting department, I should have tried to speak with people from other departments. I should have made the effort to get to know everyone, especially anyone in the music departments. Why didn’t I do that when I had the chance? Why did I hide in the background and base my worth on what the lighting department was projecting? It was hard for me to take responsibility and be accountable for not putting my best self forward when I was fully capable of doing so.

And that’s when it dawned on me. This is when I realized that it wasn’t too late! It’s never too late! Tomorrow might be my last day in the lighting department but I still had the evening to think of something.

The next morning, after a very restless sleep, I went into work for the very last time, bringing with me a little plan up my sleeve; literally, it was up my sleeve. There wasn’t any work for me to do as it was a quiet day for the crew to begin with. So, me and my little plan decided to take a wander. I remember feeling a little sneaky and I half expected someone to ask me what the suspicious look on my face was all about. But of course, no-one was paying any attention to what I was doing. I continued walking down the hall, through a few offices until I found my destination. This was the office of the production team for one of the most successful live variety shows ever to come out of this TV station. And I was going in.

Let me just tell you right now, I was so nervous I felt like I would need to lift each leg using my arms so they would take me another step further. My anxiety kicked in so I needed to stop for a moment to take a deep breath. There was a girl sitting behind the front desk so I approached her. I took another deep breath and said hello. She said hello back and then asked ‘How can I help you?’ With one more deep breath, I answered, ‘I would like to speak with the Music Producer please. Is she in today?’ In which she replied, ‘Absolutely. Follow me.’

Now, this is when things really started to feel strange. As I was following her, I looked around the office and noticed that there were all these people looking at me. I’ll never forget that feeling. Although one can never assume what other people are thinking, to me the energy in the room was saying, ‘What on earth is the lighting girl doing in here?’ I shook the feeling off and continued making my way through the office and passed the production team. The girl showing me the way led me to the Music Producer’s office, knocked on the door on my behalf and said, ‘Katrina is here to see you’. With a welcoming smile, she told me to come on in.

I won’t pretend that I remember this meeting word for word, but I will say I will never forget it. I know I thanked her for seeing me, since I hadn’t spoken to her before (besides the odd smile here and there around the building) and I certainly didn’t have an appointment. I remember her making me feel at ease though. She was very welcoming and I’m sure also intrigued as to why I wanted to see her. I explained that my time in the lighting department had come to an end and that today was my last day. What I remember vividly is what I did next. I reached up my sleeve, pulled out a CD and placed it on her desk. It was a copy of the demo I had recently recorded. I then said, ‘This is the reason why I am here. This is who I am, not a lighting technician. I would really love for you to have a listen when you have the time’.

Then I stood up, thanked her again for seeing me, we shook hands and I walked out of the office; feeling a little shaky but very proud that I had at least found the courage to walk in there in the first place. Feeling rather vulnerable, all I wanted to do was grab my bag and get out of there. I don’t even recall saying goodbye to a single member of the lighting crew. I’m pretty sure because there wasn’t a show being recorded on this particular day, they had already gone home for the day. I did manage to catch the Lighting Director before my departure; it was the right thing to do.

I thanked him for the opportunity, even though things didn’t work out. I think he appreciated me coming to see him to say goodbye and thank him one last time. And with that, I picked up my belongings, walked out of the studio, down the hallway full of the larger than life-sized photos, passed the reception desk, into the foyer and out the front door; leaving my Lighting Technician days behind me.

I’m not sure what most people would do in this situation, but for me, I had so much going on in my head, I just wanted to be alone. I decided I would make my way to the pub for a bite to eat and the end-of-an-era cheers with myself. I approached the bar and grabbed a bar stool and just sat there. Although it was the end of a chapter in my life, I felt a strong sense of a new beginning too; that moment in time where we have absolutely nothing in front of us but a feeling that everything is going to be okay. Trusting in the beauty of a blank new canvass wanting to be painted on. The unknown can be the most beautiful place if we allow ourselves to sit in all the possibilities that are yet to be born. I stayed in this stillness and calm until I was interrupted by the bartender wanting to take my order. I ordered myself a glass of wine and continued with my moment of reflection. Don’t get me wrong, my thoughts weren’t always blissful.

There was still that space in between another glass of wine, where I had to ask myself, ‘Have I really screwed up here?’ I allowed my mind to dance with both the positive thoughts and the negative thoughts and I lovingly let them lead me to where they wanted me to go until I gently persuaded the dance to follow me in the opposite direction. This must have continued for a couple of hours until I was again interrupted; this time it was my phone.

At this point, I didn’t feel like talking to anyone and I considered not answering it. After all, I was content on my own, sitting here in the silence of my thoughts. Then I noticed it was a work number. I immediately thought I must have left something behind or perhaps the TV station required the Human Resources department to conduct an exit interview. I was wrong on both accounts. It was the Music Producer that I had given my demo to.

Remembering this phone conversation, twenty years after the fact, is daunting to say the least, because I couldn’t even remember much of the conversation twenty minutes after it took place. It was definitely an out of body experience where I became the observer of my own scene, having little to no memory once I had re-entered the picture. Only these words, from the Music Producer, have ever remained in my memory. ‘Katrina, we just listened to your song. We loved it and we want to put you on the next show’. That is all I can remember.

Once the magic fairy dust had settled, I began to comprehend what had taken place. After having further discussions with the Music Producer, she had explained that she was so impressed with what she heard and would like for me to perform the same song on the demo. So now this explains why I had that bizarre experience every time I would hear this song on the radio; I knew it was calling me, I just had no idea in what capacity. She also explained to me that usually there is a two to three-month wait for celebrities to get a spot on the show but because a booked singer had canceled at the last minute, next Monday was now available and they wanted to give me that spot … .an unknown.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’re so excited and so scared at the same time? I was freaking out! One minute I was so overwhelmed with everything and I just wanted to pack a suitcase and run away and the next minute I was telling myself that this is exactly what I have wanted my whole life and I needed to get it together. I think what scared me the most was my anxiety to sing in front of people. I still hadn’t completely dealt with this, so knowing that in just over a week’s time I would be singing in front of thousands or millions of people, was just a little too much for this fragile mind and wounded heart to comprehend. But I kept reminding myself, and I would say out loud, ‘This is what you have always wanted’.

About a week before show time, there was a funny story that came out of the production meeting in preparation for the show I was appearing on. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall that day. The only people that sit in those meetings are all the heads of each department and the production team that is putting the following week’s show together. Representing the lighting department on this day was the Lighting Director and the Lighting Director’s Assistant. Since I’ve never been to one of those meetings, I cannot tell you exactly how they run, but I do know from the person who shared this story with me, basically everyone talks about their ideas for the upcoming show and they all get informed of any music guests that will be appearing on the night and then they listen to the song that is being performed by the artist. This allows the lighting, staging and camera departments to start working on their own ideas for how they’d like the song to come across on television.

In the meeting, the Music Producer played the song for the upcoming show, waited for it to finish, looked at the Lighting Director and asked what his thoughts were. He immediately started coming up with ideas on how he wanted to light it. She then looked more intently at him and said, ‘Do you know who this singer is?’ ‘No’, he says. Then she replied, ‘That’s your lighting girl’.

Of course, I was never there to witness any of this, but I do like the story that was relayed to me. Apparently, he almost fell off his chair and was left rather speechless and that’s definitely an image I’m going to keep with me for a very long time to come.

Being brave is one of the most crucial things we will ever do in our lifetime. The reason it is so important is because it doesn’t only benefit us. When we are about to embark on something out of our comfort zone that excites us to our very core but scares the living crap out of us, two things happen. Something within ourselves gets healed and something within others gets ignited. Our bravery inspires others to be brave; it becomes contagious. When we take that leap into the unknown, even though we’re a little scared, if we follow that intuition that comes from such an honest place, magic always follows.

Arriving at the television studio on the day of the live show was like being invited to the ball, except this time, I was Cinderella. It had been almost two weeks since I walked out of these doors, finishing up my time with the lighting department, but walking back in as the singer I had always wanted to be is indescribable. Because of the enormity of the day, I simply had to bring my very best friend with me. When we approached the reception area, they were expecting me. It wasn’t long before someone came to greet us. I’d never dealt with people at this level before but I had seen this person from my days in lighting. She was really sweet and asked us to follow her. ‘Come with me and I’ll take you to your dressing room’.

As soon as she said that, my friend and I just looked at each other and smiled; the kind of grin that only best friends understand, where no words need to be exchanged. As we continued to follow her, I noticed we were just about to pass the lighting crew who were all running around like crazy, doing what I still remember so vividly. As we walked by, one of the lighting crew smiled and waved right at me; I felt like I was in a movie scene where the cool guy appears to be waving at you but then you realize as you look behind you that he’s actually waving to the pretty girl that’s approaching. I looked behind me but there was no one there and then I realized, that wave was for me. It was the first time this guy had ever said hi. It would be fair to say that news certainly spread within all departments of the television station, that the lighting girl was singing on tonight’s show and if it felt strange to them, well it certainly felt even more bizarre for me.

It was strange being in a place where I had worked for six months, yet nothing from this side was familiar. All those executive rooms and hidden hallways that the lighting crew wasn’t authorized to be in, well that’s where I was being led to. When we reached our destination, we stopped and she said, ‘Here you go ladies. I’ll be back in a little while to see if you need anything’. And with that, she disappeared down the hall. And that’s when it hit me. As we were standing in the corridor, I looked at the door only to discover that in big, bright, bold letters it said, ‘Katrina Mae’s Dressing Room’. My friend and I looked at each other with the biggest grins on our faces. Then she looks over to the other side of the hallway and calls me over. As we stood there in front of another dressing room door, we looked up and read the letters, ‘Katrina Mae’s Musicians’. Wow, I haven’t met them yet but that’s pretty awesome. Okay, so now things are starting to get real.

We walked into my dressing room and the first thing I noticed was those beautiful light bulb mirrors, I’ve always loved them. There were flowers and sandwiches, a fridge, a big comfy couch and a large screen TV. I took a seat and breathed in every molecule of magic. I was allowing myself to experience this moment for all the wonder that it was and with every single breath, I inhaled my destiny and exhaled my fears.

I won’t lie to you, I did think of everyone that was about to witness this moment on live television. My parents that would be watching at home, my extended family, my friends, the people from the small town where I used to live, the ladies at the factory and pretty much everyone I’d ever met my entire life. Not to mention the live studio audience of a few hundred people and everyone else that was about to watch as it was being streamed into houses across the country. Okay Katrina, just breathe; you’ve got this. Then there was a knock on my dressing room door. It was the floor manager. ‘Hey Katrina, you’re on in fifteen’.

Once you get that final countdown, there’s a feeling that comes over you. It’s a combination of nerves, excitement, fear, curiosity, determination, conviction, strength, certainty, uncertainty, knowing, unknowing, faith and everything else you can think of will arrive at that moment. But it was determination that asked me to take its hand and walk out there. So, with determination in one hand and my best friend’s hand in the other, I was about to take the stage.

The wonderful world of television managed to capture that moment for me and I will cherish that piece of footage always because adrenaline can sometimes take so much from memory. What I remember so vividly is inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply. Then I had a quick moment to reflect. I thought about the home environment that never encouraged me to dream, I thought about the social worker that laughed when I said I wanted to sing one day, I thought about the lady from the factory that said I’d be there ‘til I was old and grey and I thought about the lighting crew that had to spend their workday preparing to light me. And then I just let all of it go and I breathed in the moment….my moment.

What was to follow would be the day that changed the rest of my life. After that night, I did become the singer I had always wanted to be and I never let anyone tell me who or what I was or could be, ever again. On this night, every layer of fear and insecurity left me during this performance, and it never returned. I was changed forever. One of my favorite moments was right at the end after the host comes over to greet me, he congratulates me, gives me a kiss on the cheek, and then I look to my left at my best friend who was standing right beside the camera. The same friend that only months before, I could barely sing in front of because I was too scared. And I raise my eyebrows to her in a way that only best friends understand. As if to say to her, or anyone else that was watching, ‘I did it!’