The girl at 13

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Her act is short — just a single number, and a cover song at that. The girl had some trouble with the microphone in the beginning, and didn’t really hit her groove until the first chorus.

She can be forgiven because it’s her first open-mic night, and because, after all, she’s just 13 years old.

Also: She’s my daughter, and I can barely stand it.

I watched her for years — as she found her voice, as she taught herself to play, as she willed herself to be the girl she wanted to be while remaining true to the girl she is. I’ve heard her practicing, alone in her room, every day for months, recording herself and then scrutinizing the results, again and again.

I have seen her suffer for her art, even though she has no idea that is what she’s doing.

She’s hard on herself. She believes herself to be timid, though she’s always been so brave. She thinks she’s awkward, even as her body lengthens and her shoulders square off. She feels like she’s useless, even though her thoughts and actions continue to change the world around her for the better.

She knows she is loved, but she doesn’t begin to suspect how much.

At 13, the girl is tangled mess of insecurity, anxiety, vague fear and real apprehension as she crosses the threshold, even as she propels herself forward like no other I’ve ever seen, demanding of herself that she grow, learn, strive.

The open-mic night was my idea. The child has a gift that demands to be explored, to be honed and shared, even though she’s just 13.

It was my idea, but she took to it readily, like she had been waiting for it. She rehearsed and rehashed; she fine-tuned and polished up. That part was all her. And when the time came, she stood up and did her thing without a glance backward, like she was a 7-year-old kid getting on the schoolbus by herself for the very first time.

Which, once upon a time, she was.

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