19. Kuh-Row-Key

For the longest time, even up through high school, I thought the word karaoke was pronounced kuh-row-key. It wasn’t until I met my wife that I was corrected. 

How I went 17 years saying this common word in such an uncommon way seems outlandish, but really it’s not all that unusual. Like many things in life we learn by doing things wrong and then being corrected by those we love and trust. 

I had seen the word numerous times, but I hadn’t heard it spoken all that often. Sounding out the letters in my head, I came to the aforementioned conclusion.  

So here I am, driving along with the love of my life in 1999 as we pass a kid’s pizza restaurant with a sign out front that says “KARAOKE.” I look to Christina, my girlfriend at the time and in the most embarrassing, redneck way say “oh look, they have kuh-row-key now.”

She, looking flabbergasted asks, “what did you just say?” I felt the blood rushing to my face wondering how I must have unknowingly humiliated myself. Sheepishly I repeat “Kuh-row-key.”

She graciously corrected me and we had a good laugh about how ridiculous it was that I had made it that long I’m my life saying a common word so horribly wrong. From that day on, I was sure to pronounce karaoke correctly. 

Now I could’ve taken it personally, or stubbornly chosen to to say it wrong for the rest of my life, but because of the relational equality we had, I took it to heart and made an asserted effort to better myself. 

Many times in my life since then when I’m presented with new information I didn’t always receive it so easily. Many times I would pridefully reject constructive criticism.  However, in those times I have learned a valuable lesson.  

That lesson is that being right isn’t nearly as important as I once thought it was. Having good character and choosing wisdom and truth over being first to be right was much more sustainable in the long run. As well as less humiliating when my boisterous attitude came back to haunt me. 

In this age of political toxicity, where even something as unprecedented as a global pandemic can be politicized by internet sleuths and conspiracy theorists, it is of upmost importance that we can walk away from these squabbles with our character intact. 

The lack of control we all feel right now may lead to the strong temptations to grasp at straws in an attempt to control the spiraling world around us, if nothing else, at least the narratives we believe. 

We could even go as far to shame one another for being uninformed or fearful of the unknown. We can try to boaster what little information we gathered from a google search or a video on Facebook and try to present it as gospel truth. 

Times are tense. Some have more time on their hands and some have less. We are all navigating this new norm and doing our best to rationalize its impact. 

In hindsight, when we look back on this, no one is going to remember how right or how wrong you were, but rather how you treated them in the midst of the chaos. 

Were you patient, were you kind? Do you show grace and empathy during a time of crisis that none of us truly understand?

If there is anything I hope to convey in these words, it’s that being right, means nothing to those around you unless it is presented with compassion.