Right before I turned 27, I had a mental breakdown and landed myself in the hospital. There were a lot of thoughts and feelings swirling around in my head thanks to good ‘ole depression and anxiety. They love to make themselves known. The loudest, most terrifying voice was this: I am not who I want to be. It triggered a lot of other shame that had been building over the years and, in short, it destroyed me.
Let’s be real, I thought I would be a touring musician right about now. I thought I would have albums out. I thought people would know who I was. To be clear, I thought I would be famous.
Yeah, I feel real stupid saying that out loud to the internet world, but if I’m really genuinely honest with myself, that’s what I really genuinely thought. So what do you do when you’re sitting at home and suddenly realize you’re not where you thought you would be in life, you can’t breathe, and can’t think of any possible way to feel remotely okay?
The first step was an attempt to find some sort of understanding. Why did I want to be where I wasn’t? Why was it so shameful to realize I wasn’t? Why did I feel like I deserved to be there? This was the hardest part. I couldn’t identify why I wanted to be this famous musician, mostly because I had never thought of it that way. I just assumed it would eventually happen. I mean, come on, I have these talents and, well, isn’t that how it works? One day, while talking with my best friend, it just sort of came out: I want the platform. I want to be seen. And that brought on a lot of other painful feelings. Why is that so important to me? Why do I want to be seen? Is it because I’ve felt unseen for a majority of my life? Ah, there it is. And the down and dirty internal work began.
I started redefining what my actual dream was and giving it less of a hold over my life. Maybe it wasn’t actually this giant, complicated mess of whatever “fame” is and maybe that wouldn’t be able to create or hold my happiness. Maybe this desire to be seen is something else entirely.
So what? What now?
As I began to put my life back together, mentally and spiritually, with a lot of people and therapy, I started to find that what I wanted out of life was actually right in front of me. That this emphasis on some wild and outlandish dream (while not entirely impossible) was putting unnecessary pressure on my shoulders and triggering my depression in a very scary way.
I started making small, attainable goals. I wrote music. I found people who wanted to write music with me. I wrote in journals upon journals upon journals. I went to work. I talked to friends. And I suddenly started to feel fulfilled. It seems so easy when I say it this way, but I recognize that it was the hardest thing I have ever done and am still in the process of doing. I am not a famous touring musician. I have a couple of singles out on Spotify. I’m living somewhere in the Midwest and have a small group of friends that see me. I am okay.
So, to you who feel like you’re a failure because you’re not this or that or whatever: slow down. I know how real and terrifying that feels. I get it. I do. I invite you to breathe with me, to dive into that moment and to start to redefine what’s overwhelming you. I think we live in an age where we’re told a lot of our dreams are possible if we want them and that’s incredible. But sometimes they’re not, or they don’t look how you thought they would, or something. I’m still figuring it out. And that’s okay.
Your passions and dreams and desires do not define you or hold you. You do. You have the power to make that clear to yourself. You even have the power to redefine.