As a little girl, I had played piano, guitar, and clarinet off and on. And I loved to sing. But I didn't stick to any of it. And naturally, I began to write a script about myself as a "quitter," without really questioning the underlying reason for abandoning my music.
Well with some space and time, I've been able to see what happened more clearly. When I was fifteen and sixteen, I had dreams of becoming a bad ass folk songstress. But when I picked up guitar, I didn't sound like one right away, which was expected since I didn't know how to play guitar! I can laugh about it now.
But the perfectionist in me couldn't take it. I had been praised for "being gifted" in school, and when I realized I had to practice really hard and wasn't #1 at something, I basically quit. In other words, it was my desire to be the best, perfect, amazing at what I did that caused me to refuse to be a humble beginner. I also have a few key vivid memories of feeling discouraged by friends, teachers, and family. But the truth is I was overly sensitive and any piece of feedback would cut me deep. I was still learning. It was "precious to me." I wasn't the best at it. And it was easier to abandon altogether.
In the meanwhile, I excelled at "left-brain tasks" like critical thinking, writing, and mathematics. I was a good girl who was school smart, a blessing and a curse. Straight As all the way. School provided me a rewarding space to practice and hone these skills. I was recognized and applauded. I felt good. Any dreams of becoming a poet and folk musician melted away...
It's only been in the last five to ten years that I've been able to un-train these perfectionist tendencies and let myself be a beginner again. Being a beginner is vulnerable. It's not comfortable, especially when we're fast learners, and the thing we are learning takes a lot of practice, patience, and time.
Here's the fundamental question: Would you rather be a beginner working towards your deepest desires, or incredibly proficient at something you know isn't your most meaningful work? Most of us settle for the latter.
Ideally, we would be incredibly proficient at our dreams, but that takes time and energy. And one level deeper, it takes commitment, a willingness to say: I commit to this because it brings me the greatest joy, even if I'm starting from scratch.
And the best part is that we're not starting from scratch. We weave threads from our other work into our deepest desires. When I picked up guitar again last year, I was amazed at how much my fingers remembered to play from my teenage years. My experiences in psychology, spirituality, women's leadership, art, nature, can now be incorporated into my music, which I simply would not have been able to do when I was a teenager.
The past is full of clues about what we want and we are often sidetracked because of external expectations and social pressures. That's why this work is essentially about returning. We are returning to something we know deep in our bones. We are returning to the throne in our hearts. We are going home.
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