As some of you may know, my experience of immigrating to Canada has brought up all kinds of challenges for me around work.
What it’s made me ask myself is, “what am I really good at?” I’ve always felt that I was talented, or at least skilled, and could excel at most things. However, my unquestioning belief in myself doesn’t always translate into success. What I’ve often done, is reach out to master more skills than I can possibly manage at once, while neglecting the ones I know best. E.g., attempting to become a writer when I’ve been a serious musician for the past 5 years, leaving my guitar to gather dust while I berate myself for not being published in Elephant Journal a second time.
It’s gotten to the point where I can barely handle all my hobbies. On top of it all, I’m attempting to launch a new career, which obviously can be frustrating. And this past week, with struggles in my marriage, I felt the delicate balance begin to crumble.
Building an online presence, albeit a useful skill in searching for a job, can allow us to get away with a surface appearance of confidence, self-assurance and mastery, without actually achieving it. I’ve known this, yet it’s just the nature of the beast, that when you’re spending hours a week updating your blog, LinkedIn, and Twitter profile, you are losing time in developing actual skills. And the sneaky part is this: if you have a bit of insecurity, like me, the online presence will hold it at bay so you never have to deal with a real situation that might test your limits.
So it is that I’ve become a songwriter, yoga instructor (focusing on the neuroscience of mindfulness), Communications professional, and erstwhile trauma therapist, all in one. (And I wonder why I haven’t had the time to learn to speak French!) And despite all this, I’m still unemployed, terrifyingly close to bankruptcy.
It’s true that when one is spread thin, it becomes difficult to cultivate depth of skill. I’ve often wondered if my breadth of interest was somehow pathological in itself. What is more likely, I think, is that all these skills are facets of the gem that is me. They are also ways that I’ve learned to cope with the challenges I was given.
You see, what I’m really good at is being me. And that may not seem like much; some people achieve much greater things, things that affect hundreds or thousands of people. Me, well,… I’m an artist. My job is to express who I am.
As an artist I use everything available to me – my mind (through writing and meditation), my voice (through song), and my body (through dance) to express the tangled knot of challenges life handed to me at an early age. Like many artists, I’ve had a challenging life. I come from a family of untreated mental illness, with unreasonable expectations placed on me both emotionally, and in the level of success I was expected to achieve. By 24, I had developed chronic health issues that could only be addressed through a vigilantly tender routine of gluten-free and soy-free diet, plenty of sleep, and a stress-free life if I could manange it. My self-confidence was so dismally low that I’ve forced myself into poverty as well as the field of trauma treatment, which was so beyond my level of coping that it made me physically ill.
Thankfully, I can now embrace my limitations and am exploring the yet more tender realm of wants and needs. I spent so long believing I had to prove something, to create the most difficult life I could manage and prove I could survive it, that I barely even know what kind of music I like, or what’s going on in the news. These days I make it a practice to follow inspiring sources of news and ideas, music and creativity. I make it a practice to cultivate fun for fun’s sake, not just as a remedy to stress. I’m learning more about who I am.
I feel vulnerable admitting this; this lack of dimensionality, this history of running from disaster to disaster, while somehow in the meantime inventing yoga workshops and writing songs. At 33 I soberly look around and see my peers achieving greater things, things that I could have achieved in the absence of the hot perfectionism that burns me to the bone and takes the joy out of what I do.
I’m ready to accept help and support in re-building the fleshy part of myself, the part of life that are tender and soft; lemonade on a Sunday, talk radio shows, singing a few songs before bedtime just to fill the house with sweetness.