As I crossed over the Manhattan bridge late last night, I gazed at the beautiful city. For the first time in months I got butterflies in the pit of my stomach. I couldn’t stop thinking, ‘I can’t believe I actually live here’, with a dreamy smile lighting up my face. I was so incredibly happy in that moment. Several aspects about Manhattan have spontaneously conjured up this sense of joy: walking through the Union Square Greenmarket, discovering a new cozy cafe, stumbling upon street fairs, emerging from the subway tunnel knowing exactly where I am. The minute I notice that excitement clench my gut I take a step back to fully realize that what I’m experiencing is in New York City. In addition to sprinkling my days with dots of ornamental bliss, this city has also held my hand as I transitioned into adulthood and truly became my own person. New York has toughened me up quiet a bit and has given me countless opportunities to grow in ways I never could have imagined. However, these maturing developments have caused me to question my goals as a musician which led to painfully open and honest discussions with Scott. I have made some internally shocking discoveries about myself and the real reasons why I wanted to move to New York in the first place; reasons which were buried under my vague, fixated ambition of being labeled as a ‘successful musician’, a term I couldn’t even clearly define for myself pre-NY.
One recent realization sticks out..It sounds terrible in my head and really juvenile at the same time (let’s remember, this all started when I was in high school). I was desperately afraid of being a nobody. As a teenager I feel like this is a normal desire especially when trying to find your rank in the social hierarchy of 9th grade.. but it was more than that. All I cared about was performing in the musicals because that was where I found my status, ‘the singer’. After the spring musical was chosen and revealed at the beginning of the year, I spent all the months in between listening to the music nonstop. I knew every part by heart. I would watch the accompanying movie and determine which part I wanted enveloping me into a deeper preparation. The day the director posted the cast list became my favorite annual holiday because I got to see my name at the top of the list. My reaction was never one of arrogance or boastfulness, I just felt a sense of extreme release knowing that I belonged somewhere. At the end of my senior year as I was trying to concretely plan the rest of my life (insert joke here), the only thing I knew was that after college I was going to move to New York. New York was the one place I knew that generated somebodys and I yearned to be that.
Up to that point in my life, I was looking up to the Broadway stars I had been listening to as a model of who I wanted to become. Linda Eder, Sutton Foster, Kristen Chenoweth.. these women were incredible talented, beautiful, and driven. They had achieved a level of greatness I wanted to reach one day with music. My parents, as supportive as they were during that time, never had aspirations or goals they were ever trying to achieve. They never modeled the ‘go getter’ attitude and, thinking back on it now, I don’t think I ever heard them talk about their dreams.
They were content being exactly where they were, reliving the same day over and over again. Never striving to improve or learn new things. My dad came home from another monotonous day at work, sunk into the living room couch, and robotically ate his dinner while watching pawn stars. He completely tapped out of reality. My mom was a stay at home mom..until I was 19. She busied herself with an enormous amount of unnecessary housework in order to distract her mind from realizing that she had absolutely no direction. They had no real friends, never attended social events, never got involved in the community, never even really left the house unless they wanted to treat themselves to eating out at Olive Garden. Now, I’m not saying that my parents are nobodys; everyone has their own way they prefer to live life. But when I compared my parents lives to the lives of my idolized Broadway starlets.. the distinction was clear.
The major problem was that I had constructed this very ambiguous, lofty goal of being a ‘musical somebody’, but had no idea how to get there. My acquired personality from my mom has prevented me from fully submerging myself into the mindset of a musician. There was a huge disconnect between my dream of being this star and who I was: a passive, soft-spoken, naive carbon copy of my mom who does what she’s told. My desires and obligations were a jumbled mess of thoughts after graduating from high school and continue to fight each other to this day. For example, I so often feel the need to get a conventional job, but when I do I’m miserable. Then when I piece together a few odd jobs I feel guilty, like I’m not achieving any progress towards a real career. The lifestyle of a musician was never taught or encouraged in my house. It was just a fun hobby that we just so happened to be good at. I was to grow up and be a teacher, marry someone with money, and be a house wife. Again, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this, but it’s not fair for parents to force their choices on their kids. It was their choice to end up the way they did and whether they are proud or ashamed of it, I shouldn’t have to follow in their footsteps. But I digress..
What I’m trying to say, is that my eagerness to move to New York as soon as I could really stemmed from an aggressive desire to become everything my mom was not. I found something I was good at and wanted to run with it as far as I could, hoping to prove that I could be successful, unlike her. Once I realized this I felt a terrible, gut-wrenching sensation tickling my entire body. What a horrible thing to say about my mom. Who am I to say that she wasn’t successful? And better yet, why do I have to prove that my own success would be better than hers? I was foolishly measuring success through a more materialistic, selfish viewpoint further stretching the gap between the vision of my name in lights and hers tucked away behind the laundry room door. I was angry that she never saw my talent as anything more than a cute hobby and my form of rebellion was moving to the biggest city in the world hoping to prove her wrong. Why couldn’t I have just started drinking and smoking pot in high school like the rest of my friends?
I’m so thankful to have Scott here with me and together we have come to some incredibly insightful conclusions about the kind of musician I want to be. I have also begun to accept my more introverted personality traits as assets, not flaws. I was projecting a completely different version of myself in my head trying to be something I clearly wasn’t. I’m not designed to be this big, fabulous superstar and not achieving that doesn’t mean I won’t be successful. It’s all about striking a healthy balance for myself and deciding what I want for me, not what I want to be for someone else. I’m still figuring it out, sorting through all the emotionally warped fragments of those teenage years, but I’m discovering a less anxious, happier person under all the rubble because I’ve finally discovered that all I want is to feel like I belong. I just want to be a part of something special where I have a place, just as I did in high school. I ran away to New York because I thought it could give me everything I needed to be successful, but now I understand that success for me comes from being part of a music community where I am loved and cherished for who I am.