Okay, so Tampa has this thing called Gasparilla. As far as I can tell, it takes over the town throughout the course of several months, with parades and parties and debauchery all in honor of some pirate who may or may not have existed. There’s also a big music fest downtown that gets bands from all over (last year the Flaming Lips headlined). I’ve never participated in any of it. It’s not out of any holier-than-thou attitude, an ironic or bored dismissal of local tradition. Crowds scare me. I try to avoid them. I skipped my high school and college graduations for this very reason. So I never expected to get caught up in any of it.

But then miracle of miracles, I’ve been asked to play this year’s music fest and I’m beyond surprised and excited. I’ve been playing out a fair amount lately, but this is by far the biggest thing I’ve been asked to play solo (and I’ll admit, I’m kinda terrified, too).

I can’t help but remember my parents telling my younger self that I sounded like a dying cat when I sang. Part of me still feels like that girl whenever I open my mouth. That girl who used to shove pillows against the crack in my bedroom door, my DIY soundproofing, so my parents wouldn’t hear me practicing and writing my silly little songs. That girl who with her dual-cassette tape deck would try to layer sounds and vocals even though I didn’t know how to play more than three chords and I still can’t harmonize for the life of me, and then would hide those stacks of tapes lest they be found. Lest my secret be fully revealed. It was a secret I kept for about 4 years after teaching myself those guitar rudiments. And then another 5 years after that that I mustered up the courage to start my band and perform openly. And now another 6 years and here I am.

It’s hard for me to say I’m proud of myself, but I am. More so, I’m proud of that girl 15 years ago who decided to pursue her dream regardless of what other people thought and refused to give it up. I want to give that silly little thing with her shitty $100 guitar a high five and a hug.