What could we do if we didn’t let fear stand in our way? Fear of being judged, of not fitting the mold; fear of falling short or failing puts a stop sign in front of our dreams' path. We look on in longing, can see the “what if” vista so clearly and beautifully, right in front of us, unaware that all we have to do to reach that place of “I made it” is look both ways and, as Walt Disney used to say, “keep moving forward.” Have you ever seen someone take that first step, past their fear stop sign?
A few weeks ago, I was emceeing the "Lehi Idol" singing competition as part of the annual Lehi Round-Up Rodeo. There were 11 hopeful contestants, nine of them girls. Because the audience got to choose the winner through texting in their favorite, many of the singers brought their friends and family to come vote for them. I was impressed with the talent but quickly realized it would probably be the contestant who brought the most supporters that would ultimately take home the title of “Lehi Idol” and the $150 cash prize at the end.
As the show went on, I noticed a boy standing off to the side by himself. The event was held outside at Wines Park, and it was an extremely hot day. Nevertheless, this kid was dressed head to toe in heavy black clothing. He wore a leather jacket, long jeans with chains on the side, black sneakers and a big black beanie on his head, which he had pulled over his eyes. Everything about him seemed dark. I wondered what he was doing, pacing back and forth, only occasionally glancing up at the stage. I figured maybe he was a friend of someone there. The thought crossed my mind that he could actually be part of the competition, but most of the other contestants were seated in the audience, watching the show.
Soon we came to the last performer listed on the program, a boy named Colby Shelley. I was sitting off to the side of the stage on one of two folding chairs, and was looking over my notes when the boy dressed in black walked over to me, took off his coat, removed his hat, and sat down. I looked over at him in surprise.
“Are you Colby Shelley?” I whispered.
“Yeah,” he responded.
“Great!” I said. I looked over his bio. “It says here you were in a garage band called, ‘Within The Darkness?’” I smiled at the name. Seemed fitting.
“Yeah, but not anymore,” Colby said. “Another guy took over lead vocals.”
“Oh,” I said, feeling sorry. I looked at his T-shirt, which read “ISSUES” and smiled. “You took your coat off.”
Colby nodded. “I had every intention of standing up on that stage and facing the back wall to sing with my beanie and coat on, but then I decided I was going to try to face my fear by facing the audience.”
He looked up at me, sweeping his long hair out of his face and then running his hand along the other side of his head, shaved clean. I took in his two spikey lip rings, noticed his leg anxiously shaking up and down, and then focused on his eyes. Deep brown. There was hurt in those eyes, as well as determination. They were the eyes of a boy who has been through times as dark as the clothing he wore, yet still fighting for that light. My heart broke.
“Colby,” I said softly. “Tell me about why you’re here.”
And so he did. He told me his dad wasn’t around much anymore. His mom had signed him up for the competition and he reluctantly agreed, choosing the song “Stay” by Rhianna as a message to his dad. I asked him if I could share that with the audience. He shrugged.
“Sure, if you want.”
So I introduced the last singer of the day, No. 11, Colby Shelley. I explained how he was facing a fear today, how he wanted to hide while singing, but decided that today, he could be brave. The audience cheered in support.
“Show us what you got,” I said and walked off.
The sound guy came running up to the stage. “Sorry,” he said. “The music isn’t working.”
Colby’s worst nightmare was coming true. There he stood, alone on the stage, not knowing a soul in the audience besides his mom and sister, who were both still standing off to the side. No music. What was he going to do? I got up and walked onstage.
“Colby, will you tell us a little about why you chose the song you did?” Colby told the audience about his dad, and how he wished he had stayed. He told them he related to the song in a way probably most people didn’t. I had my arm around this boy the whole time, and my mama heart wanted to just pull him in for a huge bear hug but I thought that would probably make him even more uncomfortable, so instead, I told him how proud I was of him, how I had four boys myself and I hoped one day, they could be like Colby — they could take off their dark layers of fear and stand confidently in the light. At that moment, the sound guy gave me the thumbs up. The music was working.
The song began and the audience went absolutely still. What would this boy sound like? Would he remember his words? Would he panic and run offstage? Colby closed his eyes and the music seemed to flow into his body and back out his voice. And oh — his voice! Smooth, strong, filled with emotion. We were all transfixed.
“I want you to stay,” Colby belted out the last chorus and the audience erupted into cheers. He did it. He nailed it, in fact.
A few minutes later, the results were in. As predicted, the two girls who brought the most family and friends received third and second place.
I looked down at the last name. “And the first-place winner of 'Lehi Idol, 2019' is: COLBY SHELLEY!” The crowd went crazy. Colby covered his face with his hands, and fell to his knees. I can’t describe the happiness and light that shone around that boy in that moment. It pierced him all the way through. It wrapped him in joy. It made him believe.
“My favorite quote is, ‘The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you learn why,’” said judge Dustin Kenyon to Shelley. “You are here to filter music through your soul and give it to other people. My only critique is do it more!”
I hope Colby does sing more. But I hope more than anything, he keeps pushing through his fears, his doubts,and the darkness that entices. I hope when he comes to another sign that reads, “Stop, you don’t look like these people. Stop, you don’t have the confidence like they do. Stop, you’re different. You don’t fit the mold.”
And then you move forward, Colby. Don’t you stay there. Let that light break through again.
And go for those dreams.