I have a hard time doing new things. Maybe that’s true of most people. Failure is scary. The vulnerability of screwing up in front of other people is overwhelming. My life has been ruled by anxiety in a lot of ways. Before School of HONK, I’d dabbled in music just a little. I know a few guitar chords, I sang in high school, played a trumpet for a year and a half in middle school, but never learned to read music. When I first saw School of HONK, I’d been in love with the HONK! Festival for five years, always thinking, wow, look what I could be doing if I had only stuck with practicing. But practicing always reminds me how bad I am at something, and practicing something LOUD comes with additional embarrassment.

School of HONK said: “You could be playing with us!”

and I thought, they don’t mean ME, I can’t read music.

“You don’t have to have any musical experience!”

If only I had kept that trumpet.

“We have instruments to loan you!”

Huh. Well then. But I had another regular Sunday thing going on, so it took months, plus the nudge of a childhood friend who’d been involved with HONK! for years, to get me in the door. It was terrifying. I could barely play one note. I felt ridiculous standing there essentially pretending to play while I tried desperately to make a sound. I couldn’t possibly parade until I could at least play… but of course they invited me to come anyway. “Just pretend. It’s fun.”

I was mostly mortified and didn’t go back for two months. But I was determined then. All my excuses were useless in the environment of School of HONK.
Every week we are reminded, “First and foremost, we’re here to have fun. You can’t have fun while worrying about playing wrong notes. So don’t worry.”

I told that to my anxiety over and over until it started to stick. For weeks I was convinced that eventually people would stop being nice, they’d decide I was too slow of a learner and they’d lose patience with me and then it would all be pointless and I’d have failed at yet another thing and would have to just go back to my boring unchallenging life. I would get a little choked up at the beginning of every session when we were reminded not to worry about doing it wrong.

The idea finally started to stick. Best of all, it has percolated into other areas of my life. School of HONK is teaching me how to learn, to approach everything with curiosity and a mindset that talent comes not from some inborn knack but through being open to trying, and trying again.