Doing Everything But (What I Love)
Imagine if as a child you were told you could be or do anything you wanted, except for the one thing you really love? That pretty much sums up my experience.
I grew up in a pretty strict Christian community. (Note: In order not to hurt any feelings or implicate anyone, I'm choosing not to tell exactly which one.) It was the kind of community that thought of the world as us vs them. The ones who would inherit the earth and the "worldly people" who wouldn't. I grew up in true duality. Right, wrong. Good, evil.
In this culture, pursuing a life in music was considered too worldly a pursuit. You couldn't possibly be a good god-fearing Christian and also stand on a stage each night to be "worshipped".
Most would then say, I should have pursued music within the church. And I am sure that I would have had I had that opportunity. But in this particular denomination, there were no musical outlets to be pursued. No choirs, no band.
My mom told me stories about how she and my Dad were in the regional church choir back in the day and I remember yearning for that kind of legitimate musical outlet. Legitimate, because then it would be music intended for worship, not for personal glory. But by the time I came around those choirs were long gone, I assume because they took the focus away from the church's true teachings.
I remember the summer I came back to school and I was now old enough to join the school choir. I immediately became the teacher's "favorite". To give Jette credit, she didn't play favorites, but I always had a special bond with her. She was my favorite teacher, not only was she also my English teacher and had spent time in the US, she saw that I excelled in her classes and always saw to it that I had extra challenges.
In choir I was happy. I sang my heart out. I loved it when I got to sing a lead or a solo, but I was just as happy learning the hard parts and being moved from one group to the other, whichever one was having difficulties at the time. Which meant I got to learn every harmony part in every song. I was happy that is, until it came time for performances. The only performances I ever remember performing with the choir were the summer concerts before the end of school, and any regional choir assemblies I attended. The rest were either religious of nature or performed in the local state church or both. Neither of which I was allowed to do. So every time a performance came along, I could rehearse every week with the rest of the choir, but come performance time I would have to give my parts away.
The most hurtful one was always St. Lucia. Every December 13th the schools in Denmark would do the Lucia ceremony. The entire school would meet in the school assembly. The lights would be turned off, and pair after pair of my choir mates would come in dressed in white, carrying live candles in procession. Most little girls would dream of getting to be the "Lucia bride" the first one to come in with the wreath with four candles on top of her head. But me? I would dream of getting to sing one of the other songs in front of the whole school. Sitting there in the seats my heart would ache to not be able to join in and sing and make music.
As a young teen, I joined a trio. By now my aspirations had waned down to simply having a little fun and singing with friends. Maybe perform here and there. We would sing a capella 3 part harmonies. When our first opportunity to perform was at a birthday party (also something my church wouldn't allow) and I had to decline, I finally decided that doing music wasn't for me. It was just too hard to dance around what I could and couldn't do.
So I embarked on a lifelong (or at least half a lifetime) of doing everything but. Everything but what my heart was telling me to do.
For a while, I wanted to be a mechanic. But my eczema made it too harsh on my skin. I went full time with the church for a while, which was on a volunteer basis, so I made ends meet by cleaning offices and stairwells for my friend's dad's company. I also had the idea to study to be an architect. I worked for a while in a candy store. Thank god for my good metabolism back then. I studied fine art for three years, two of them spent in Barcelona. I dabbled as an entrepreneur and failed miserably. I got a degree in Multimedia Design. I've created countless websites. I worked in telemarketing, working my way up the ranks to become their youngest (and only woman) project manager with hundreds of people working under me.
By the time I was 28 I had eventually left the church but was stuck in a job I hated, in a terribly abusive relationship and I was completely and utterly unhappy. One night, deep in depression, I thought back to when I last felt happy. And my mind went back to singing in that choir in school. I was a little taken aback that it had been so long, almost two decades since I felt truly happy. Before that little light of aspiration was put out.
So I decided to join a choir. And I thought, let's make it a gospel choir, I've always loved the thick harmonies and celebratory music that gospel is. Slowly but surely I dug my way out of my unfitting life and found my voice again. Literally. I found a community within these choirs. And I loved singing in all those state churches I wasn't allowed in as a kid. I struggled with hoarseness and took singing lessons. These were my first steps. Baby steps. But my heart was still longing for more. In another chapter, I will tell my story about what finally kicked my wheels into gear and put me on my path, but singing again woke me from my slumber and from all the negativity I was enduring in my life and my work. It opened my eyes to what I was doing to myself, what kind of abuse I was taking.
I've done just about everything but what I love. I have tried living a life without music creation for a full decade. And it sucked. It's just not for me. I need to be in the thick of it. So whenever my life with music seems hard, which it does now and again, I remind myself what life without music was like and it gives me the strength to prevail through anything.
In this time of hardship, please support the arts as much as you can. Please consider supporting the show with a one-time donation: https://paypal.me/jessicalynnemusic
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