A few days ago I laid awake at night staring at my planner and my 72 item list of things that had to get done in the next 24 hours. Between the gnawing chest pain, and the fleeting moments of terror, a thought that has plagued me for the past 5 years popped back up, "I should be so much further by now. I wish I would have started sooner." Basically the equivalent of me worrying about the fact that the sky is blue instead of pink. I can't do shit about it.
You hear a lot of stories about artists, musicians etc who just KNEW at the age of 4 what their calling was. They defied the wishes of their family, forged an illegal marriage with their guitar and rose up the blissful ranks of starving artistdom until achieving the ever elusive goal of "living the dream". I was not one of those people. I knew at 5 that I wanted to sing and write books. And those were the only things I wanted to do. I however, grew up under a domineering father who, despite his own love for music, passed down a very heavy set of limiting beliefs around creativity as a career. Now here's the thing, I am completely responsible for not sticking to my guns and pursuing what I wanted. I wanted to badly to please my father I chose to fall in line and excelled at school graduating just after turning 16 and immediately going to college in movement sciences to eventually pursue my doctorate in Physical Therapy. I chose to pursue the "safe", "secure" and "smart" path. ICK.
I got cold feet right before grad school. The prospect of facing $100,000+ in debt for a career I wasn't even sure I wanted to do, turned out to be a mouthful of stale bread I was having trouble swallowing. So I decided to use my new certification as a clinical exercise physiologist to take a year to work and then decide what I wanted to do. Ever heard the phrase "life comes at you fast" ? Well it does, in the span of that year I was engaged, had opened a personal training studio with my fiance and was on a whole new life trajectory. The plan being we would get his dream (the gym) up and running and then I could pursue mine (singing and writing). Well....
Two months before we were supposed to get married, I found out about all the other women. Five other women. I also found out he had put $65,000 of debt in my name and I was now homeless and facing bankruptcy... right out of college. So as I sat in a pool of tears in the warehouse I was illegally living in, I just asked myself, "What do I really want?". The answer has been the same since I was 5, sing songs and write books. So I gave the ring back (ok honestly I threw it at his face) asked my Dad for a loan and I moved to NYC with $800 and my clothes. I did have to file for bankruptcy but I also rebuilt my whole life and started the very timid journey into music and later, authorship.
My life choices meant I was starting WAY later than everyone else and I was keenly aware of that. I hadn't played piano since I was four and spent a lifetime studying music theory only to attend Berkeley for my degree in jazz. I had studied writing and song structure on my own and had always been gifted with words but that was about it. What business did I have pursuing this? Here's what it came down to: Every single year of high school and college I spent wishing I could do those things, daydreaming about them and saying "I wish I would have chased them sooner". When you lose everything it suddenly becomes very clear what matters to you and you no longer care about falling in line. According to popular advice, I DID EVERYTHING RIGHT. I graduated with honors both in high school and college, I had a degree, a career, I was set to get married and it was an abysmal failure. Security is not a real thing and quite frankly if the safe route makes you that miserable I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. In those months before my move I realized two things: 1. If I didn't pursue this now, I would be in the same pile of regret next year and 2. The journey is often far more valuable than the destination.
So I started, and I was god awful at first and it took years to figure out my voice and my sound and deal with the raging insecurity of being the newbie in her 20s. But I have never made a better decision for myself. I still sometimes feel like I've failed too much for someone my age. I still feel so far behind. My song "Muddy Water" coming January 29th, was written during one of those moments of "I've failed too much to be successful at anything". The past few years have caused me to question myself, love, my faith, my courage and ultimately leads me back to 5 basic truths:
1. My life is my responsibility. I am 100% responsible for where my life is now. Sometimes that feels harsh and disappointing, but taking COMPLETE responsibility gives me my power back. If I am totally responsible, then I can change any circumstance I am in and I can write my story how I want to.
2. It's never too late to be what you could have been. We are fed limiting beliefs from the time we are old enough to accept advice. And often, these limiting beliefs lead us to mountains of debt, a 9-5 we hate working at for 50 years so that we can retire with some money when we are too old and physically incapable of enjoying it. NO THANKS. The worst case scenario of chasing your passions is that you are happier and enjoy your life, best case scenario it gives you everything that you have ever dreams of. Both of these are a win.
3. RISK>REGRET. My first 50 days in NYC I spent crying myself to sleep each and every night in the room the size of a walk in closet and living off a single meal per day of tilapia and green beans because they were on sale. Because my commission hadn't quite picked up for my job yet, I was modeling at an EDM nightclub from 12-4am to make extra cash for food and rent. For someone who despises all forms of house music, there are precious few things that fall further into the category of "cruel and unusual punishment". THIS was worst case scenario and honestly, it wasn't really that bad. There are certain things that now I miss from that time. And the confidence I built by rebuilding my life in the toughest city in the world, the friendships I made, the art I created and the woman I became were well worth the risk. I can live with failure, I mean I've done it 100 times now, but I can't live with waking up at 65 with someone I barely like wondering, "What would have happened if I tried?"
All I can say is this, whatever it is that pulls at your heart, don't have the same regret next year of not doing something to bring you closer to it. Life is far too short to not actually spend time living it.
"Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn, anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you."
"Sweet Darkness" by David Whyte