Last week, while in Miami visiting some family, I had a very strange, exhilarating experience.
For three days Hollywood Beach was my home. Every day was spent shuffling between my hotel's pool, the sandy beach and the Atlantic Ocean. The sun beat down on my skin as the wind rolled off the waves and danced through my hair. The real fun, however, didn't start until nightfall.
As the sun disappeared behind the towering Marriott, the moon slowly rose over the water. This slow transformation left the sky a profound orange color and made the Broadwalk come alive.
The Broadwalk is Hollywood Beach's main attraction. This oceanfront promenade spans almost three miles of beaches and is lined with shops, parks, restaurants and many other kinds of entertainment. When the sun goes down, its lights illuminate the shore and the sound of music and chatter resonate for miles.
The beach is definitely my favorite place in the whole world, yet I still found myself counting down the hours until I could saunter the Broadwalk, hopping from store to store, stopping occasionally for soft-serve ice cream or to admire the Atlantic's breeze, all under the dim light of the moon.
One night when walking with my family, I decided to bring my ukulele.
I received my ukulele as a present for my 16th birthday and it may be the best gift ever. My parents knew I'd wanted one and finally gave in. I played for about an hour every day and learned how to play reasonably well in a little less than a month.
Despite being mostly limited to simple chords and rhythms, I'm satisfied with how fast I learned and how many songs I can perform.
As I strolled down the promenade, uke in hand, my family and I came across an empty stage. It was easily accessible and sat in front of hundreds of empty seats. Undoubtedly used for the occasional free concert, tonight the stage looked barren. As we neared the stairs, I foresaw what would happen.
"Hey Jared! Why don't you get up on stage and give us a show?"
It was my Aunt Jen. My head lowered and I began to walk faster but proceeded alone. My family had stopped and begun to imagine the spectacle. My aunt, uncle, two cousins, grandma and sister thought it their sole duty to get me on stage.
The peer pressure was unbearable, and in seconds I found myself under the spotlight of the moon.
Herds of people passed in front of me. Some ignored my presence, some laughed and kept walking, and some even stopped and awaited my next move. Hesitantly, I broke into my go-to number: "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz.
My family immediately accompanied my strumming with clapping of their own, and soon a few other bystanders joined in on the rhythm. As a result of my mediocre-at-best voice, I began to sing at a volume barely noticeable over the sound of my ukulele.
Once again accompanied by my family, the song began to come together. We sang louder and I played with more zeal. A crowd of about 15 was huddled around the small stage and clapped graciously after the final chorus.
I quickly jumped off stage, welcoming not only two handshakes but $1.35 in tips.
My first performance may not have been the most amazing ever given, but it's the highlight of my music career.