Perhaps it is just normal anxiety…
I’ve probably only gotten support from one person in my family when it comes to my dreams. Mom always had my talents and favorite things to do on the forefront of her mind when gift time came around like Christmas or Birthdays, and essentials like clothes I was needing soon. The rest of my family… not so much. To this day the only thoughtful gift I got from my father was from mom telling him to get me a paint set. It was sweet that he picked it all out himself, piece by piece, with the help of a clerk at the art store. This is the story mom told me afterwards. I still have some of those brushes now, and it has been one of my most cherished gifts growing up. Actually, thinking back, it is one of my favorites if not the favorite I have ever gotten to this point.
I don’t want to go into a sob story again (even though this might still be one) so it is enough to say I learned music alone for the most part (besides school) getting little to no support or encouragement to learn or grow. Mom was supportive in everything, repeating for clarity, I guess, for example she would sew my chorus outfits for me since my dad didn’t seem to care to buy them for me. Unbeknownst to me, this might be where my fear and anxiety of sharing the things that bring me joy started, maybe not. Thinking back I am remembering gifts I made pouring out my little girl heart and soul that were regarded as almost nothing. I thought to myself, maybe it’s all in my head, after all dad pinned my Christmas present drawing on his bedroom wall. Years passed and he threw it away, like junk mail. I felt the joy (that seemed barely there in the first place) when I gave it to him was a lie. I felt foolish for giving him something that suddenly felt so worthless. When I got older and my talent grew there was one painting that I hated because my art teacher told me I cheated because I changed my idea about the painting and the assignment and did my own thing. I don’t remember why I gave it to dad, I thought it was ugly and worthless too but he kept gloating about having it in his office and people saying I was talented. I felt guilty that he seemed proud of something I didn’t like and I still felt that he was lying to me, why? What could he gain from lying to me? I wouldn’t be able to tell you. If I dig deep enough I might find the source of the fear and doubt but I’m not sure if I want to go there right now. I’ll never say any of this happened from malice but when you’re a kid it’s difficult to know why these things happen. I do want to point out that Dad wasn’t the only one who inadvertently made me feel this way. There was more that happened in my life that added to this growing theme.
Once my sibling and I, when I first started getting into drawing and writing, wrote a little story about our pet bird and his adventures. My sibling made all the drawings and looked like magic to me. I was so inspired to keep drawing keep improving my craft. These days I get anxious when I feel inspired. We used to get so excited to share the new part of the story and I don’t know what happened. Suddenly, my sibling didn’t want to share that anymore. As we all can do at times, especially as kids, I figured they got bored and moved on. That story was one of the most beautiful and wonderful things to me growing up. Eventually, I started writing my own stories and I always begged my sibling to read them and edit them and give me feedback. I respected their thoughts so much. They were wiser and smarter better in general, in a normal sense. Someone who has had more schooling in literature and grammar etc will be a good person to critique ones work, right? It seemed to be the advice anyone would give, mentors would be the best person to nurture any craft, hone your skills, teach you from your mistakes.
My sibling would promise to read my work. Over and over I would ask, “Did you read my story? Did you read my story yet? Did you get a chance to read my story?” I would get ignored, or they would avoid answering or just say they didn’t have time. In high school I started trying to share with close friends, I’ve never had many. They too would tell me they had no time, except one friend (maybe two I have to dig deep to touch into these memories because I think I’ve been repressing them) until she lost interest. I’m not even really sure. I’m pretty sure I only shared after they’d ask me about my drawings because my drawings were the characters from my stories.
By the time I started getting into songwriting I was too scared to share anything. Why would anyone care? They wouldn’t have time. It would soon be forgotten.
I heard in a recent video by a YouTuber I respect a lot that anxiety is a way that our mind is protecting itself. Often, it is a learned fear of perceived danger; I would say it is a mirage of sorts. Neurologically we have this path in our mind that when xyz happens then abc danger will be attached, or it is coming next. While I was watching his latest video I started contemplating something. I have always struggled with “self-promotion” and unless I am deep in a bad depression slump it has very little if not nothing to do with my understanding of the value of the things I make. My general mantra about talents and skills is that we always have room to grow and we always have room to learn. I have a lot of grace for myself with my mistakes (when I am not in a mentally dark place, I must emphasize that) and general short-comings.
Even if I doubt the value or the motive about the things I make and I manage to convince myself or reiterate their value to myself my fear is that it will be overlooked, ignored, or people will lie to me about how great they think something is while it’s not even something they care to hear about. It probably runs deeper than that. I can honestly say that years passed after my friends and most of my family (not mom to this day she still wants to read an old story I wrote that I am now ashamed of lol) kind of made me feel/think or taught me that I am not important enough, or my sharing is a burden. I had more years after high school to drive this idea home into my psyche.
At some point in my college years (there were too many) I learned guitar and started becoming a simple singer songwriter. Some friends would tell me things like I am good at what I do, or I should share what I make and that sort of thing, yet there was a constant feedback of indifference. Even as my talent got me into a music school, and my sibling scoffed at me saying “the music school is hard work not play,” as if the thought ever crossed my mind that education or music or the combination of the two were a cake walk with the condition of our education system and the arts in general… anyway, I digress. Even with all this, “success” from hard work and practice I had constant messages from people who “supported” me that were all mixed signals for years to come. Soon it became like a default “this is what friends say about stuff their friends make” situation for me. I didn’t really trust anything I heard from my friends except my teachers at the music school since they had what I want to call checks and balances as far as what needed work and what I was doing well. I gained trust in my general ability in music, and musicianship but as far as the heart and soul of what I did and the songs I wrote from my guts I never shared them with teachers. I wouldn’t dare to even think about it. I had gifted composers all around me, peers some I might have even called friends who I talked to daily were easily accessible and I didn’t share most of them. I had one friend who is an incredibly talented guitarist and songwriter who still asks me about my music in present time. I actually had the pleasure of seeing her live a little more than a week ago and that was quite a night. I will have to write about it some other time. It is probably what has gotten me thinking about this more and more lately. Anyway, she told me, and I still remember, “keep sharing your music,” after I played her the first song I ever wrote. As my music lightly echoed through the music school I was so afraid of getting heard and also a still small voice in my heart was begging to move someone’s heart, bring peace or joy or anything to the people who might have heard it. My heart still doesn’t believe the words she told me that day, and it brings me so much grief. Every time I played my guitar with people listening my greatest fear seemed to be looming around the corner; I was begging for attention I didn’t deserve, or I was a people pleaser, the dirty attention seeker.
I’ve never wanted fame. I’ve never wanted fortune. I’ve never created anything with my hands or mind to gain these things. I like keeping to myself, when I am under the radar I feel peace and stillness. The spotlight just seems draining and tiring (introvert here). Money seems like the one thing that destroyed my family the most and just a “necessary evil.” I will say that I want to be a voice in the darkness and I want to keep my family financially stable, so I do what I do but I never want that to be the focus of my music and I actually love that I have a day job that supports my ability to do these things without stealing the purpose of my creativity. I feel so blessed that I also get to help people everyday at that job so it’s spiritually fulfilling for me as well, anyway on with the point of all this.
I wrote about this feeling of not really being supported and lacking real community in what feels like countless blogs. You hear that your biggest fans when you start something new are your friends and family. My colleagues at the school of music had their friends and family at all their recitals all their events. I had Mom there, always, an absent father, an absent sibling, and absent friends. I probably brought this on myself, I would think. If I were a good friend, I would have friends, or if I were a good musician my friends and family would be there. A booking agency I worked with recently actually said this in all their emails to me when I needed to sell tickets to the gigs they set up for me. They would say how “easy” it would be to sell 20 tickets, just 20 friends and family and their friends, “tell all your friends and family,” this was the constant advice I got. The fact that those friends and family have never been there was soul crushing when I set up these gigs. I also was terrified to put up flyers and get the word out because that same anxiety would build up inside of me. Telling so many people about what I was doing to see no one there, 0 tickets sold… Not one soul on my side, except Mom, whose ticket I bought myself.
Time passed, I wasn’t able to finish school or become a music teacher to save the world from pain and suffering through the life and beauty of the arts focusing on intercity schools and the poor and I had many, many un-shared songs. I wrote my songs for the people I love. I wrote them when they were hurting, I wrote them when I wanted to give them or myself hope, joy, life… That was always how it was for me.
I wrote them with all the love I had in my heart for everyone in a dark place, for everyone who felt alone, for everyone who felt unprotected or forgotten…
I am still constantly scared to share, but for some reason the universe was aligned one day for me to be brave enough to share a song with a new friend I met three years ago. This friend was always honest with me, in the tough love kind of way, and I trust them today more than anyone I know. My friend found beauty in my simple little song and something about the way they reacted made me feel they were honest this time too. This brought me to make my YouTube channel, actually two of them. One channel was for my songs the other was for vlogs to inspire people who are starting with nothing but a dream, crappy equipment and little to no money and let them follow my journey of hard work or whatever you would call it until I had built a fan base.
While life threw wild cards at me my anxiety and depression grew. I was unemployed and my mom was and still is relying on me for shelter and food so I stopped making videos. I felt I was wasting time and failing her for my selfish and pointless dreams. I still fight this fear today. I can’t say whether or not it is social anxiety about people and what they think of me or the simple anxiety that I don’t matter, I don’t deserve support, everything I make is garbage and I am continually forcing myself and the things I make onto people will only lead to disappointment, rejection, or indifference.
At this point I’m not sure how to remedy this pain and fear but I hope to find the answer. I believe my one friend would tell me these others in the past were crappy friends and not worth my time and love. I don’t like thinking this way but the times I have set boundaries to only share or invest time with the people who invest in me have actually made me feel more secure. If you have ideas or words of advice, I would appreciate it. Out my words go, into the world. I wish you love and peace and thank you if you got this far. I know it was a long one!