At 33, I’ve decided to completely change my life.
Actually, it’s just my career I’m changing. My life is more mine then it has ever been, so perhaps it isn’t changing. But when it comes to how others see my life, it probably seems that my entire world has changed. It’s strange how we let the perception of those around us determine who we are, rather than what lives inside of us and how we perceive them as being who we are. But that is exactly what it is. When someone is getting to know you, one of the first questions they usually ask, especially in the States, is “What do you do?” And by that, they mean, how do you make money. And that is just such a fucked up way of uncovering who a person is. My mother is a brilliant financial analyst and advisor, but who she is is so very far removed from that that I almost NEVER talk about that to other people when asked about her. Usually I talk about how she is my role model, how she has overcome serious trauma and adversity and is still this beautiful soul, and how she is incredibly talented at pretty much whatever she puts her creative mind towards. So, there’s that battle of external perception.
When I say I’m completely changing my life, I’m not changing who I am. I’m changing what I do with my time. I’ve made that crazy scary leap of leaving behind a “real” career—a career with a solid resume of experience, growth, and production in what could be considered the business world—in pursuit of my true purpose in this existence: creating music. I am, and have always been, a musician.
What I’ve been struggling with for the last six months, since making this decision, is why I’m so scared to do it. Immediately after the decision, I became virtually paralyzed. I had no idea what to do, much less how to do it. All I knew is that I want to be a professional musician, and that was that. I am a singer, so I sing. I’m essentially starting over, but doing something that not only have I done my entire life, but it comes so naturally to me and is, quite literally, my reason for living. Sometimes, during that last six months of this massive transition, I would look at myself in the mirror and think what I liar I was. I’m not touring the nation. I’m not even playing in coffee shops. Hell, I was barely getting out of bed some days. I felt like a total fraud. How could I look at my friends, my family, people I’ve just met and say to them, “I’m a musician,” when they asked me what I was doing? It made the transition that much harder, and the more I felt like I was lying to the people around me, the more I felt like I wasn’t doing anything.
But then, a few weeks ago, something shifted. I started to GET IT. I started writing. I started playing. I started getting in touch with the people I knew I needed in order to do what I want to do. And now, suddenly, I have a producer and we are about to go into the studio to record and I have a band and people want to play music with me that I’ve written and I love my songs and holy shit is this really my life? Suddenly, I couldn’t understand why I had been so hard on myself. Why had I felt so worthless?
I realized that my sense of worth, for so long, had been connected to what I did for other people. What I was struggling with was learning to create my own worth without anyone else in the picture. I was the only person that really mattered, when it came down to a creative life, but I had always lived a world where other people defined my worth: I got such-and-such salary, determined by someone else. I had this job title, created by someone else. I had this degree, given to me by someone else. Everything that I had considered my worth was not really my own creation, and it took me time to come to terms with that.
This identity change was more than just worth-based. What came along with leaving a left-brained world was the hard transition into a right-brained existence. There were no right or wrong answers. There was no set definitive. I didn’t have deadlines, or clients, or bosses, or anyone telling me what to do. I am a bossy-ass person, and it hit me like a ton of bricks that I had no idea what to tell myself to do.
Time. Growth. There are things that time can do that I had lost sight of in this immediate gratification culture. I could edit an entire book in a month, but I couldn’t put a single note to paper.
And so I waited. And I alternately hated myself and loved myself. I feared it, and embraced it. And waited. And one day, not long ago, a little sprout appeared above the ground that I had been staring at for six long, heartbreaking months, and I realized that the entire time I had been beating myself up, something was growing. I couldn’t see it with my conscious mind, but now, it was there! Sweet, and green, and fresh.
It was me. The real me. My identity is truer than it has ever been, and I have learned an invaluable lesson about organic growth, patience, and time. Now, when people ask me what I do, I tell them without hesitation, not what I do, but who I am.
I am a musician.