i always thought i would be a musician.
i was born with it in my blood.
when i was a baby, my older brother was in high school. and inexplicably, he loved me desperately, this gangly sixteen year old boy who wasn’t supposed to be at all thrilled by an accidental sibling. he would come home every single day from school, roll my bassinet back to his bedroom, and he would sit there on his bed with his guitar, strumming and singing while i slept or watched or played or cried.
at age four, my daddy led me up to the front of the congregation at our tiny country church, put a microphone in my tiny hand, and i sang my little heart out. granted, it was with an apparently-hilarious lisp that i’ve never quite lived down, but it was where i started, and it was where i took my wobbly fist step toward falling head over heels in love with performing.
by the time i was seven, my sister was insisting to my mama that i needed to take piano lessons, because it was making her crazy that i was trying to pick things out by ear, without actually knowing what i was doing. she said i needed to know how to play for real. she was right. so my mama enrolled me in lessons with a sweet little old lady, miss janice, from our church, who taught me to play an entire book of hymns and three classical songs.
when i was in sixth grade, i played one of the three classical songs in my repertoire at the middle school talent show, and tied for first place with my friend Leslie, an eighth grader who eventually went on to perform in New York. i remember feeling drunk, though i had absolutely no clue what that might have felt like at the time. but i was instantly and irrevocably intoxicated by this thing i’ve never quite been able to get a grip on or let go of. performance, the silence that falls over a large group of people, the pause between where i leave off and the applause begins. i was hooked. i was a sixth grade junkie, and i have never fully recovered.
some time during middle school, i started writing music. it started with this jesus-song called “i cry,” and believe me, i do cry when i call that song back to mind as an adult. my mama loved it so much, and if i sat at the piano in my childhood home today and sang it, she would still get weepy with pride. i, however, will never mention it again, past this point. everyone has to take their first steps somewhere, but let’s not relive the stumbling, awkward memories too often, okay? Let’s just fast forward to the times when songwriting gave me a way to bleed my soul into poetry. Let’s pretend I started there.
high school. state choir. national women’s choir. fine arts academy.
college. talent shows. songwriter showcases. coffee shop gigs. front page campus newspaper articles. performing an original song at my graduation ceremony.
post college. worship leader. band called treehouse. coffee shop gigs. dive bar gigs. wedding gigs. community event gigs.
everyone has always only ever known me as a musician.
i have always only ever known me as a musician.
i have spent years building an entire identity on being a musician.
but somehow, in the final year of my twenties, it has all started to unravel a little. my history and my expectations have unwound themselves and left me with all these loose ends. loose ends that are difficult to explain, because they aren’t tangible. it isn’t that i’m suddenly not capable. it isn’t that i’m suddenly out of opportunities.
it’s more like i’ve finally found a quiet place in my chest, the kind of quiet place that perceives truth long before the wild world and my noisy head do. and in the confines of the quiet place in my chest, i know that being a musician all these years has been a good thing. and it could be a good thing moving forward.
but today? for this fragment of my life? it isn’t the best thing. it isn’t THE thing.
i’ve known that for over a year, but i’ve been dancing in circles, trying to hold on, trying to breathe air into the lungs of a life that’s gone dormant.
i sat on my bed a few nights ago, writing in my journal. i was writing about how, if i subtract everything out of music but that which breathes life into me? i’m left with words. i’m left with the writing. the stories. the rest of it is all peripheral. it’s beautiful and lovely and exciting–but it’s not the bones of the thing. not for me.
and as i wrote those thoughts out, made them immortal, they felt so familiar. so i leaned back, curled up, and started reading my journal from the first page, written in october 2013.
and in october 2013, fourteen months ago, i wrote the same thought in different words. how i felt that maybe i needed to stop exploding outward into performance, and start folding inward into the quiet places. into the stories. into the bones.
and this season is about the bones, the marrow. the skeleton.
it’s about stripping away everything but the very best of it all.