Braving the Road to Belonging

On this week’s Behind the Scenes I shared some of this video of an amazing night out at choir, where we took to the busy Toronto streets and sang our hearts out! You could feel everyone come alive as they braved sharing their voices publicly, feeling bold, wild, even transgressive, and doing it together.

In that golden moment, I delighted in choir.

And I almost hadn’t gone. This time and many times. In fact, it took me years to arrive at this moment.

First, I didn’t go to choir because I didn’t want to intrude on something I thought was my sister-in-law’s thing.

Then, I didn’t go because even though my friends all wanted to go, they never seemed to be able to.

Finally, last summer a friend and I made it to choir – and loved it. Then she moved.

Then another friend joined me – and loved it. But was too busy to go again.

And another friend joined me – and loved it. And kept going without me.

People I’d told about it went – and loved it.  And never invited me to join them.

I started to feel lonely and sad and awkward about going.

But here’s what I know, both as someone who has participated in and as someone who has led experiences:

Exciting, beautiful, unique opportunities do not last forever!

So this winter I decided to go, no matter what.  I made it as easy for myself as I could. I set up a bag with my choir stuff ready to grab and go. I told my interested friends I was going every week and they had an open invitation to join me. I planned choir-night dinners so they were simple and I could get out of the house quickly. And then I went.

I went by myself.

I went in the dark.

I went in the cold.

I went.

I didn’t think about it. I just put on my boots and went.

It turned out going by myself was fine, sometimes even great. I found a surprising calm in doing this thing that was for me all by myself. No pressure to do anything other than just be there and sing. Sweet.

Sometimes my heart burst open with missing my Mom. She sang in many choirs over many years. I find myself wishing she could be with me here, experiencing this, and wishing I could go back in time and join in with her then. My mind wanders to my brother and sisters singing to Mom as she lay dying. In those moments I sing like I’m a raw pulsing nerve but I sing.

And I’ve gone to my dear sweet friend and told her I felt left out and hurt and we shared tears and love and all is well and healed.

And on the night of this video, I went with a friend and met another there. I smiled at people and they smiled back. As we poured onto the street, I hugged another friend I discovered in the crowd. As we stood there on the street, swaying, clapping, singing our hearts out, cars driving by, people walking past or clapping along, I felt at home.

I was with my people. I was doing my thing. I belonged.

Belonging took bravery and effort.

I’m sharing my tender story with you so that you’ll know that. You’ll know that I didn’t walk out the door one night, filled with ease, confidence and excitement, and stroll into a room full of fast friends, raucous laughter and immediate good times.

For this moment to arrive, I had to be willing to be uncomfortable. I had to be vulnerable. I had to be open to the magic that was available and not shut down when it didn’t arrive or took a different form than I expected. I had to show up, again and again.

I’m sharing my story to encourage you to be brave.

Don’t wait until the circumstances are perfect. Step in from wherever you are to what you want to experience.

Grab this moment.

Live fully.

More and more you’ll find you’re right where you belong.



  1. nowandzenn says:

    Incredibly beautiful and incredibly courageous. I have known this feeling many times too. You are truly a beautiful spirit and a bright light in the world.

  2. CLP says:

    Absolutely beautiful, and brave, and true. “I went.” seeing it written, or even writing it can feel so nonchalant, but what a powerful, magical step, “I went.” <3 Just reveling in this for you, and taking the inspiration for myself. Thanks Jamie.

  3. anonymous says:

    Wow, that is very much how I feel about choir. I came by myself and eventually found more and more welcoming faces who I now call friends. Sometimes in get upset because there are many cliques, especially on Tuesdays. It’s sad when you hear them criticizing others who may not be as pitch-perfect as they are. But once you get passed that and realize that it’s more important to have fun singing with an open heart rather than making sure you’re up front and centre for the videos, choir is wonderful. Nobu is wonderful, Daveed is wonderful.

    • Damon Li says:

      Don’t worry about the criticisms, some people just take choir far too seriously. I usually show up with a beer in hand (it’s the only time I get to imbibe) without a care in the world because I was sick of making excuses not to go do the things I love doing. And I’ll be damned if I made another excuse not to go, or if someone with a pissy attitude was going to ruin my night at choir.

      So I try to make it a point to introduce newbies to some of the oldies if I get the chance, because I remember not so long ago I was new and that courtesy was extended to me. So if you see a chinese guy with glasses, scruffy hair and no sense of style, just walk up to me and say hi! I won’t bite.. :)

      I don’t know if Daveed and Nobu know just how much this choir thing means to all of us, how many lives they’ve saved. I’m very thankful that they’ve continued on for so many years.

      See you all at choir!

      – Damon

      • Jamie says:

        Cheers to deciding to head out no matter what! That’s awesome that you’re paying it forward with introductions and welcomes. I’ll look forward to meeting you, Damon!

    • Jamie says:

      I’m so glad that this connected. I’m with you – here’s to having fun singing with an open heart!! Here’s to all the wonder-full!

  4. Sarena says:

    Beautifully articulated blog. Finally screwed up my courage and went by myself a few months ago – newer to T.O. -was a case of going on my own – or not at all. Choir has a bit of an odd dynamic for me too (as of other commenters) – a feeling of belonging, but …not …quite. Would be super to make pals there. Still love it though – Nike was right – just do it!

    • Jamie says:

      Thank you so much, Sarena. Yay you for screwing up the courage and going, especially being new to T.O.! I hope it brings lots of great memories and a feeling of being home in this city. I’ll look forward to meeting you there!

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