Originally published by Originally appeared in World Hum / Also appeared in the New Zealand Herald

How Korean Karaoke Changed my Life

Growing up, I was The One Who Could Not Sing. My older sister and brother, on the other hand, were routinely cast in musicals and chosen for high school Madrigals (the “Glee”-like choir reserved for the cream of the teen vocal crop). At Christmas, my siblings harmonized over “We Three Kings”—and while they charitably let me sing along, it was pretty clear who was the weakest king.

Meanwhile, my father enforced strict family rules blatantly designed to silence my ambitious lungs:

1. No singing in the morning before breakfast.

2. No singing at the table (breakfast, lunch, or dinner).

None of this deterred me. I sang in the afternoon and evening, in the shower and in my bedroom and standing on living-room furniture. I sang in the car and in the grocery store, my fist serving as a microphone. And as I entered my teens in the ‘80s, I sang everything on offer: Bananarama and Boy George, Rick Springfield and Richard Marx, Oingo Boingo and OMD, Tanya Tucker and Tammy Wynette, Guns N’ Roses and Quiet Riot. I sang it all, I sang it loud, and I sang it off-key.

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Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.” –Ayn Rand