Why ‘American Idol’ has nothing to fear from me

Singing has a checkered past with me. I love singing, I love music, but put me in front of people to do it and things haven't always gone so well. (As a kid I was at a summer camp where we were all asked to perform in a pseudo talent show; I thought I could just sing with a record going on behind me, didn't practice, and got seriously booed. And Todd Fishburne, if you're out there, you're still on my list for throwing a bottle.)

Anyhow, I'm currently singing. I've been in a couple of no-audition, no-stress (except for the work involved) choral groups over the past few years, and thought I might be ready to step up. I'm never going on "American Idol" (and wouldn't want to, even if I wasn't past my sell-by date on that show), but I would like to be able to do something properly, and get some challenge doing it.

Be careful what you go looking for — without giving too much detail, I'm currently doing just that. But: There is an audition song. At first, I thought an audition song would mean you showed up with a song that worked for you, sang it, and they said, "okay, she's not calling any cats," and that would be pretty much it. There has to be a learning curve, right?

Not so much. On the one hand, this group does give you three shots to get a short song of their choosing correct. On the other hand, they want it note perfect, breath perfect and phrasing perfect. And if you can do a little gesturing to emphasize, all the better. And this part of things isn't going so well. It isn't that hard a song. But when you sing your part (I'm a bass, it's all women) alongside the other parts (baritone, tenor, lead), it's easy to trip up and lose your place or start mimicking other parts. And I can't help but wonder if I've overreached this time: I've come very close to getting it right twice, and have just one more audition. That said: I have been practicing, alone I know I can do the song, but at some point there's no substitute for actually singing it with three other parts and getting evaluated — you can record yourself until you're blue, play it on the piano or just belt it out a capella alone, but if no one who knows the song is around to hear, you can't always know if you messed up.

There are a ton of places I could go in terms of talking more about this, but for now I think I'm going try to capture what's top of mind now: Here's what they don't tell you when you're growing up — sometimes you can work hard at something, sometimes you can do your best, and sometimes you still can fail. This is such a basic thing, yet we don't underscore it. We keep saying everybody can do anything they want if they just a) want it enough b) try hard enough. And arguably, if I spent the next two weeks (I can't audition again until February) doing nothing but eating, breathing and sleeping this song … yeah, that could work. It's not practical.

The thing is that sometimes, Stuart Smalley, you aren't good enough. And as a kid who grew up thinking I could do pretty much anything, at least creatively, which led to my getting to a "you did good!" level and then abandoning many things — which is not the same as actual talent, unless you count the talent for mimicry — I bought into the notion that if I put my mind to it, I could get things done.

Life doesn't always work out that way. In fact, it often doesn't work out that way. And all of the mind-trickery and Oprah-isms we can conjure won't change it. So that's what I'm sitting with today. A silly failed song audition probably shouldn't be a referendum on the whole person, but I'm still struggling with a little perspective.

Maybe because I'm always pre-flinching for the next bottle.