The Stuff We're Made Of, Part 4: Epilogue
I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to share my story and insights via Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. This has truly been an honor and an empowering experience for me. It’s so funny to think back on my younger self, just starting out, so full of bravado with so much to prove. I could never have imagined just where this journey would take me, and I can’t wait to see where we go from here. I thought I was at the peak of my career in my early 20’s. Whether somebody told me that or I made it up in my head, that’s what I believed. I’m so glad I didn’t give up on myself back then! I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t had the courage to follow my heart and pursue the road less traveled. Even though we don’t always see eye to eye, my parents taught me how to find my strength through their strength and conviction. Their pursuit of the truth inspired me to pursue my truth as well. I think I’ve always known that the hardest stuff in life is the most rewarding, and no matter how hard we try, we aren’t gonna get what we really want without working for it. Maybe from the outside it seems possible, but it never lasts unless it’s rooted in the right place. Believe me - I’ve learned everything I know the hard way.
It’s a funny thing to be free. We are so fortunate in this country, even with all it’s imperfections, to live as we choose. After so many years, waiting for somebody to give me permission to live my life on my own terms, I finally realized I’ve been free all along. I just have to own it. One of my favorite scenes in “A Bug’s Life” is when Flik and all the other ants, working feverishly to collect food for the a-hole grasshoppers before they come back from their vacation in Mexico, figure out there are a lot more ants than there are grasshoppers. They realize that if they claim their power and come together, they can protect and save themselves from tyranny. I love that moment of triumph! But what this means for me is that I can’t live my life in fear, and I can’t expect anyone to do for me what I can and must do for myself. I believe we teach others how to treat us, and though that process is really uncomfortable, in the end, if we don’t take responsibility for ourselves, we really have no one else to blame. I think that’s the best case scenario if we want to succeed. There’s power in taking ownership of our lives.
I’m excited about what’s coming next! Every day is something new, often with someone new, and I’m constantly learning and growing in collaboration with others. I mentioned this in a previous essay, but writing and creating as a team has taught me how to trust myself again, to love myself again, and to value myself again. In turn, I’m learning to trust others, love others and value others. After my initial disappointment and heartbreak in the church, I told myself I didn’t need anybody else. I tried hard to go it alone, but I’ve found that the good stuff gets even better when there’s somebody there to celebrate with. My biggest challenge is receiving the gifts I’ve worked so hard for. Fear of success is just as real as fear of failure, I’ve found. (There’s that ownership thing again.)
My new EP, “What If There Is No Destination,” was released June 16. I’m proud of it; I think it represents the best of me. Though my spiritual path is ever-evolving, I’ve always felt strongly that there is a Higher Power watching over me and protecting me. I believe in a bigger picture much greater than me, and I love being a part of it. I’ve been given so many opportunities in my life and career, and I’ve been blessed with more people than I can count who have appeared in just the right moment to show me the way to go and have given of themselves freely in support of my music. I can say, for the first time, that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
For those of us who come from strict religious backgrounds, it’s hard to imagine that we can create our own happiness. That idea wasn’t an option and if it ever came up, even as a curious question, it was met with the threat of imminent death. Needless to say, fear can be persuasive, and people who use their power to oppress others know that and prey upon it. I think females are especially vulnerable. It’s scary and exhausting to have to constantly fight for what we want, and sometimes our opponent is simply too big to take down, but the alternative is something I can’t live with. Plus, I feel that creative people have a responsibility to share our gifts, and true artists and truth seekers will continue to search our souls, with or without money, fame, acknowledgement and sometimes any kind of recognition. That’s the stuff we’re made of, and that’s the stuff that changes the world.