Monday, March 18, 2013


A few weeks ago, I posted a quote about being good at more than one thing (To read about it, click here). Basically, what the quote says is that, just because you excel at one thing, doesn't mean you can't excel at other things as well.

By the time I was a sophomore in high school, I had made a name for my self as that-singer-chick. I was once stopped from crossing the street by some classmates who had heard me sing. They refused to let me cross the street until I sang "Stairway to Heaven" for them. Incidents like this, combined with accolades like being the only freshman and then sophomore from my school to go to All State Choir, and as a junior, being the fourth person ever to go to All State Jazz Choir from my town pretty much made me feel that singing was my destiny. This idea was further affirmed by people coming up to me and telling me that singing was my destiny.

No pressure.

More than that, being considered so good at one thing, people were always surprised to find that I could do other things, and sometimes reluctant to think of me in any other light. This was not always the case, but occurred often enough to make an impression. But after two years of being steered into other people's ideas of what my musical life should look like, I began to lose my taste for the lifestyle.

When I left college, I felt like a failure. I had been put on this earth to sing, and I was turning my back on that. I tried a few paths out (teaching, English, bartending) but nothing really fit. My failures here seemed to confirm for me that I was cursed so long as I abandoned music.

When my dad died, things kind of got put in perspective. My dad made a career of doing what was expected. He, too, had many talents. His academic and career path has more branches than mine. He went to school for teaching...and he taught Spanish for a few years. Then he decided that wasn't what he wanted to do, so he went back to school, this time to pursue a law degree. Half way through, he realized that he really enjoyed his science classes, so he went on to med school instead of law school. He became a psychiatrist and was very well respected in his field. He was also a devoted husband and father.

What is left out of this picture? He was a great poet. And he painted beautifully. He had a lovely singing voice and played several instruments. Everyone told him he was an academic, but I think he was secretly an artist. Maybe suppressing this inner calling contributed to him ending his life. I can't say for sure, but I know that he would have resonated with the idea that you can be good at more than one thing.

So why is this long-winded post titled "Validation?" Because that's what I got this week. Since I moved back home and started back in school, I've chosen a totally different career path. I'm studying mass communications, and I really enjoy it. More than that, though, I've found that I'm pretty good at it!

This past week, one of my professors (who I have only spoken to a couple of times since being in her class last semester) sent me an email saying that she had an internship that would be perfect for me. She said I was the first person she thought of. I was touched and excited.

But it gets better...

I emailed the head of my department to ask if he would support my decision to apply for the internship, and he echoed the sentiment that I would be a perfect fit. Really? TWO of my professors think this highly of me?

No. Three of them do.

Today, while meeting with professor number one, a third professor popped his head in the door and offered his two cents. He said, and I quote, that I am, "awesome-sauce." If I ever write a book, that review is going on the jacket.

Told ya, validation. Three professors think that I am perfect for this job and are excited to see me succeeding. To me, this is proof that I can be good at more than one thing. That is a powerful realization.

The internship in question may not be a perfect fit, but it's a step. And more than that, having the support of my department proves that, even if this isn't the right thing for me, I don't have to be a singer to be successful. This gives me renewed hope that I can and will find my passion! Thanks, Mass Comm. Department for the much needed ego boost!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Chicken or the Egg?

Since I began this blogging journey, I've had some great feedback from friends and family. Much of this has consisted of, "Wow, I never knew that about you," but I've also gotten a lot of comments in the vein of, "I've gone through something similar. Here's what I have found."

The surprising part of this? The nature of the advice. I have been approaching my soul-searching mission from a very analytical perspective. Analyze my past, examine my thoughts, then deduce an appropriate career path. I'm a pretty stereotypical Virgo in that sense.

The advice I've received, though, has been a lot more...touchy-feely. Don't get me wrong, I'm very much a touchy-feely person and I constantly find myself in situations where my emotions get the best of me, but I thought a more scientific approach would be my best bet here...because of my touchy-feely tendencies. Apparently the Universe thinks differently.

So that advice? It's all been about spiritual cultivation. Friends have suggested meditation, prayer, all that real soul-searching stuff. Which maybe makes more sense? The ultimate goal should be happiness and content, right? Money and a good job are really just a means to that end. So maybe I need to focus more energy on that whole Go to the Wilderness idea.

The problem with the touchy-feely approach? It takes too long! And yes, I am aware what an utterly lame excuse that is. I want results now! I have roughly a year left in my undergraduate degree and I need to know what comes next! I need to intern and find a job and start my adult life! I'm running out of time!

Which, of course is ridiculous. There is always time. So maybe I need to slow down and focus my energy inward.

I guess this just isn't the way I've chosen to prioritize my life. My plan was to figure out my career, then explore my inner self and gain a spiritual side. But maybe it doesn't work that way. Maybe the two are intrinsically linked. Maybe spirituality needs to come before career plans?

Which should come first, the chicken or the egg? Now I'm confused...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Is depression an excuse?

I can't decide if this post is offensive or not. You tell me, but please be kind...I don't like being yelled at, even over the internets.

Is depression an excuse? I suffer from depression (seasonal, major, manic, you name it, I've got it). Not all the time though. It comes in little fits and spurts, as unpredictable as Colorado weather. Some days I'm fine. Some days I'm happy, even manic. Then some days I just crash. BOOM! And I sit in the wreckage and wonder why I even try.

I don't even know what that means. Why I even try what? To live? To love? To make pancakes? It's a little too abstract to be taken seriously. I think that depression is a scapegoat. Not all the time, and not for all people, but for me, I think that my depression is an excuse.

I've been doing really well in school. Like super awesome. Like 99%'s on my tests and 100%'s on my homework assignments awesome. And then, this past week, I mysteriously stopped doing my homework or going to class. For no real reason. Why? Because depression had descended. Why? Maybe because that is the nature of the disease. Or maybe because I'm afraid of my success.

If I admit that I am doing well, then I set my foot on the path to success. If I start walking down that path, I have to make choices about my future. I have to start deciding what comes next. Should I go to grad school? Should I apply for internships overseas? Should I start looking into some possible careers? AAAAHHHH! Panic attack! This is just another form of that passion thing I'm so afraid of. Basically, by doing well in school, I am opening up exciting (and terrifying) new possibilities.

So I blame my depression instead of facing the real problem. My life has given me plenty of fodder for depression, plenty of excuses not to succeed. I have had to fight some uphill battles, and given the circumstances, I'm sure people would let me off easy if I just gave up. Who would judge the girl whose dad committed suicide for suddenly giving up on school? The perfect excuse to fail.

But it really is just an excuse. The truth is that I'm not failing, and I won't fail. Yes, I have depression. Yes, I have had some awful things happen in my life. But I cannot use these hardships like smoke and mirrors to distract people (and, more importantly, myself) from the real issue. I freak out when things start looking good. The security blanket of failure is lifted, and my depression is just my fear fighting like hell to hold on to...what? Nothing good.

So I say that my depression is an excuse. It's hard to admit this, and it will be even harder to fight it, but I'm going to.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Our deepest fear.

I have a confession to make. I'm afraid. I am afraid that I may have found something to be passionate about. Admitting this exciting possibility is scary for me because it feels like the kiss of death. My past experiences have left me with the feeling that admitting my passion jinxes the possibility of success. This is stupid, I know. At best (or worst) this points to self-fulfilling prophesy. I say to myself, "I wanna do this!" and then the self-sabotage sets in. As soon as I commit some part of my mind or efforts to the pursuit of a goal, I start to imagine all the ways it can, and will, go wrong. I start to complain about how hard it will be, how many people are out there who are more talented, more beautiful, better qualified or connected. Blah blah blah. Excuses.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure." - Marianne Williamson

Is this true? Is self-sabotage just our minds railing against the fear that we are "brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?" (To read Williamson's full poem, click here). If so, then this is good news. When that mean little inner voice starts to talk you down from the cliff, then you know it's time to take the plunge.

I had an assignment in my Careers class to write the bio of my career life ten years in the future. The paper needed to include our "current" job, the things we "did" to get there, and (Dun Dun DUNNNN) our passion. Sooooooo not fair. I keep telling my teacher that I don't have a passion! Why was she making me do this!? For exactly that reason.

Hearing the word "passion" sends my body into a full-on anxiety attack. My heart starts racing, my palms sweat, my breath becomes ragged and shallow. I look like a cornered animal. Why? Maybe because I fear that I am "powerful beyond measure."

I did the assignment. It took me a little over two hours to write out my first draft, but I was surprised at how easily the ideas flowed. I started off safe, exploring my real past. I am a firm believer in the idea that our past has an influence on our future. Once I got into the realm of fiction though, the words still came fairly easily. Yes, the ideas were a little loose and poorly researched, but there was definitely an idea there. I created a passion (crazy, I know) and I really feel some resonation with the idea. I used my Dream Board to guide me a little bit, and I found some dormant interests rising to the surface.

In a nutshell, this is what I said: My passion? "Supporting the arts and my own creativity." My future career? Public Relations...person(?) for an art museum in London.

OK, so this is still a bit vague, but it's getting a lot closer to finding my path. I had a thought shortly after learning about study abroad that I might try and intern with one of the art museums in London at some point. Why? Because they're in London mainly. There's more to it than that, though. I like working with nonprofits, and even though I have abandoned musical performance as a career, I still love to participate in the arts. I also have some experience with education and a life-long love of museums. Seems like a good fit. Why public relations? Well, it fits with my major, and it balances behind-the-scenes work with the role of a public figure. I like that too.

The passion I have picked is also vague. At first I thought this was copping out, but the more I think about it, the more powerful this choice seems. By keeping my "passion" open, I'm allowing myself to interpret it in many ways. I can support the arts and my own creativity by working for a museum, or writing children's books, or opening a community theatre, or marrying some rich guy and working with charities...the point is, this passion is flexible, and I need that. I need to be able to reinvent and start over without feeling like doing so kills the person I was in order to become the person I want to be.

Thanks, Careers class, for forcing me out of my comfort zone and making me realize my power.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Watching a professional at work

A couple of weeks ago I shared a blogpost about the importance of asking for help. Today, while browsing my Twitter feed, the perfect video appeared to say more eloquently what I have experienced and am trying to achieve.

Amanda (F***ing) Palmer is a singer/songwriter/musician/artist who has perfected the art of asking for help. Confession: I have never actually listened to Amanda Palmer's music...but I read her husband's books. Amanda Palmer is married to Neil Gaiman. If you like fantasy fiction novels and you are an adult, then you NEED to know who Neil Gaiman is.

Here is Amanda Palmer's take on "The Art of Asking."

What I like most about Amanda's argument is the acknowledgement that asking leaves us vulnerable. But more than this, that vulnerability implies trust, and trusting others to help you is a beautiful lesson in personal connections. 

I have experienced this too, and I found that people are generally kind and willing to help. Amanda explains this kindness. She says that people want to help you because by reaching out and asking for help, you are connecting with them on a personal level. This is such a beautiful expression of the human spirit. Adopting Amanda Palmer's philosophy on "the art of asking" makes it easier to accept and enjoy the experience. 

My next mission!? To actually listen to Amanda's music. Anyone who is this cool of a human being is probably a fantastic artist as well. Cheers! 

Using the past to empower the future

Music school left me feeling very bitter. About school. About friends. About music. When I dropped out I swore off music and all the things in my life that reminded me of the time I spent there. This was short lived, but even now, almost three years later, I still have a slightly bitter taste in my mouth when I talk about that time in my life.

Although I have yet to truly reembrace music (and I'm not sure that I will ever want the same things I wanted then), I have occasionally tested the waters. I spent some time gigging in my home town, and for a while I thought that I wanted to be a musician after all. I liked the attention and the praise, but I still really hated the lifestyle. And treating music as a business took away all of the joy and the art. So I swore off music again.

I have sung in public four times in the past two years. And yet, I still have people come up to me on an almost daily basis to compliment me on my voice. If I had a nickel for everytime someone told me, "I remember when you sang at [fill in the blank]" I would...have a lot of nickels.

For a long time, this recognition made me sad. I felt that the Universe was trying to guilt me back into music. Then, in periods where I have felt underappreciated, these comments lifted me back up, riding on my former glory. Neither of these feelings represent a healthy approach to the past.

I'm in this class right now all about careers (no wonder the subject is on my brain). Most weeks we have guest speakers. This past week, our guest was a representative from the local library system. She made her job sound awesome. It was a great talk, and it made me think that I might want to work for the library some day. Let it also be said, that I have a similar reaction to all of the speakers, "I could do that!" Optimism is great, but this isn't really a career epiphany. What I really took away from the library spokeswoman were the names she mentioned.

During her presentation she mentioned the names of several people that she works with. I knew every person she was talking about, not because they were local celebrities (although some of them certainly are), but because I have had personal interactions with them. The really important part about this is how I knew each of these people. They were all connections I had made as a singer. I thought to myself, I could probably talk to that person and use them as a reference.

Aside from the possibility of getting a job at the library (cool by itself), this gave me a valuable lesson. Use your past to empower your future. OK, I may never classify myself as a musician again, but I don't have to disown that part of my past. I can use the experiences and the connections from that time to create opportunities in my future. If people already know me and like me because of my voice, then they will be more receptive to liking me for other skills. So there you have it, never discount even the bad parts of your past, because none of them are entirely bad.