Guest Writer, Julie Ziemelis–Writer’s Salon

Trial By Social Fire

“I am alone. I am utterly alone. How did I get up here in front of hundreds of bar goers singing “Bye Bye Miss American Pie” at karaoke night alone?” I was screaming this in my head as I was trying to belt out yet another stanza during the longest song in the world.  You know those nightmares you have about being naked? That is how I felt that night in New York City during an evening out after attending a business conference all day.  The ring leader of the group, a fiery beautiful redhead, had suggested it. Of course she did, because she could sing and be the star. I did not know this woman before the conference, but now, five years later, I have gotten to see her rising star in social media.  Back then we were still on a rather level playing field. Or so I thought.

It started out with a group of women from different regions of the country coming together to meet in person after developing friendships on social media. We greeted each other with hugs and laughs and then the sizing up started. By lunch time, I had been relegated to the “support for the industry and not the leader” in the group. But I didn’t care, as I enjoyed my support role in marketing and PR and I was just damn happy to be in New York City, learning more about social media, without the responsibilities of family. However, I was there alone and clearly, by lunch, I knew my next best friend was not in the group.

A few men decided to join us after dinner and the plan to go to a bar off of Broadway for karaoke night was hatched. I was game, as it’s always fun to sing in a bar with a group of people. A GROUP of people. The ladies started putting their names in for various songs while I sat back with my glass of chardonnay enjoying the atmosphere of the joint. The redhead was an amazing singer and she soaked up the spotlight. Then someone asked me what I was going to sing. I wasn’t going to sing anything, I thought, since I firmly believe I am a backup singer at best or a song leader, like my days in the sorority at college. A cheerleader for music, you could say, but not the main attraction. So, the men we were with really started goading me into doing SOMETHING, so I suggested a group song that the entire bar could sing along with. And Don Mclean’s anthem to the past was a good choice for a group sing along, or so I thought.

The MC called my name and I was giddily pushed to the stage by these new social media friends of mine. The music started, “Long long time ago,,,” and then I realized that NO ONE was singing along with me. I kept going. God help me, I kept going. I was thinking, “Surely, the whole bar will jump in when it gets to the “So, bye bye, Miss American Pie” part. Oh no. Those rat bastards did not raise their voices to help the poor struggling soul in the middle of the spotlight on Broadway. I looked imploringly to my group of people and saw the “What the hell!?” look on their faces. I refused to quit and walk off that stage. So, I kept going.

Painful is a word you may use for the last leg of an Ironman. Or childbirth or setting a broken leg. But what I experienced up there, warbling at a TV screen on the wall, while hundreds of drunk people were wishing I would shut up and get off that stage is whole new world of what pain feels like. Finally, an actually musically talented man jumped in to save me. He stood next to me and we hammered out those last two stanzas together. And for a moment, it was fun. And I could breathe. I thanked him profusely as I left that stage and I approached the group of my new friends. The shock and dismay on their faces was evident. I had embarrassed myself to such a degree that I had sunk to a level of social low that there was no recovery. The red head suggested that it was time to hit the next bar down the street and as they hurriedly walked away, I realized I was shunned.

Alone in New York City, I walked towards Times Square feeling pretty shitty. There is a reason that being shunned was the ultimate punishment for rule breakers in the Native American tribes. I got to Times Square, and looked up at the crystal ball that rings in the New Year. The decorations were still up, as it was January. I felt the crisp air on my face, a rather new sensation after spending a few years in Kona’s warm weather. I thought of my friends on the island and what they would think of me if they had been there. Then I envisioned them singing along with me and I felt better.

I wasn’t going to waste precious time, standing in one of the most iconic places in the world, feeling sorry for myself. I asked a tourist to take a photo of me with my arms outstretched in the middle of Times Square. As she snapped the photo, which I have on my shelf to this day, I was thinking, “I did it. I got here to New York City. I survived a horrible trial by fire socially and dammit, I sang on Broadway”. Then I walked back to my hotel, alone, but with my head held high.

Julie Ziemelis is a blogger and created the popular site 365Kona.com and “365 Things to Do in Kona” on Facebook. She also is a published author and wrote the book, “How to Move to Kona” (to rile up the NIMBY’s who reside on the Big Island.)
She owns her own digital marketing consulting company, Ziemelis Communications and enjoys traveling to social media events, where she stays out of karaoke bars.

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