Only 2 Years Left of 20-Something

Saturday whirled by in a haze of sugar and champagne and family- a welcome distraction on a Covid-era birthday. (With some fully vaccinated family members, too!)

And distraction was just what I wanted. 

I don’t really like my birthday anymore. It makes me sad to turn another age my mom will never see.

And I’m now only two years away from no longer being a twenty-something. (Will I have to rename the blog?! 😉)

And then there’s the disaster that was 2020! I joked, “27 didn’t happen, so I’ve decided not to turn 28, I’m just going to do it over again”. Because in some ways it feels like a stolen year for all of us. 

Yeah, the big picture sucked, but I have to remind myself that in small moments there was joy, experience, novelty, excitement, wonder, and growth. 

On my birthday last year, I road tripped with my dear Elliott out of Nashville to be reunited with Al in Johnson City. On our way, we followed the path of devastation the Tornado had torn through Nashville, pointing out the car windows and gasping at wrecked warehouses and trees ripped from the ground. 

I made new friends while rehearsing a show in Maryland, and that night the news of the virus started to seem real- and frightening. The next day, I took a run through the blossoming cherry trees while listening back to the rehearsal tapes, tried to push my fear down and focus on the lyrics which I hadn’t quite gotten down yet. We weren’t even sure the show would happen, bars and businesses closing right and left by the hour. We ended up playing, but anxiety had me in a daze. What I wouldn’t give to get a do-over and actually enjoy it! 

After what felt like a month shut up inside my house with only Huckleberry for company, Shelby Jo and I road tripped back home to Montana. We thought we could make it in two days… but… first the wind started up… then the lightning… then the rain… as we entered South Dakota it turned into a blizzard and black ice. And then around midnight, we were spinning off of the interstate, my car slapshot across the interstate lanes by the wind like a hockey puck into the ditch. We got so lucky to have landed in a big drift of pillowy snow. And then lucky that a couple cars who hit the same patch of black ice barely missed hitting us as we sat there, stuck and helpless. A tow truck later, and we were on our way to the Airbnb that was still an hour away. We made it around 5 am and celebrated with a mug of whiskey on the porch, admiring the snow even though it had done us soooo dirty. 

The rest of Spring was such a fabulous homecoming. Teaching lessons from Montana over zoom, realizing that maybe someday I could run this little one-woman school of mine from anywhere. Hikes and campfires and cocktails. Filing for unemployment for the first time, that was… educational! 

A heart wrenching decision to not renew the lease on my beloved Nashville townhome. 

Dad and I road tripped down through the desert back to Nashville to pack me up and move me home, hitting several national parks on the way- Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Pink sand dunes, a night roughing it in the truck on the Devil’s Backbone underneath literally the most insane night sky I’ve ever seen. 

Some really hard goodbyes.

Some exciting hellos- reuniting with old friends. Standing next to one of my best friends at her wedding. Getting to be an involved Aunt Jadi again.

Flying a freaking plane! More farm work and horse scratchin’ than I’ve done in a long time. A very lucky run in with a massive grizzly while I was by myself… AH. (Or getting hit in the neck by a piece of semi tire that had blown right as it passed me… also AH?! A little lucky to be alive on that one.)

Not being a blonde for the first time! (Should so bring back the red hair?)

Meeting family members for the first time and loving them more fiercely than I realized I could.

More National Parks: Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Teton. Some secret hikes and lakes I hope stay hidden. Lookouts and Forest Service cabins, reminding me that electricity is sometimes overrated. The adrenaline rush of lake skating, trying to chase the perfect conditions. 

Falling in love… 

I’ve had a few nice connect-the-dots moments. Working out at Orangetheory the other day, I realized some of my vocal coaching habits and philosophies come from what I absorbed while working for them for years. So many years away giving me a borderline delusional happiness as I walk across the field on a negative degree day, on my way to the hay shed to feed the horses- despite the fact that my nose is close to freezing off. 

All those things I never thought meant anything led me to the moment I have now. Two jobs I love fiercely, getting to be close to my dad again. Getting to love on my family members- in good times and bad. 

I am thankful to see another year and promise to keep my eyes out for new moments for which to be grateful.

Some Say Depression, It Is a River

*Written in late January*

A few weeks ago, I heard a story about a girl who can ask her deceased father for guidance before she goes to sleep, and without fail he appears in her dreams.

I was so jealous.

That night,I laid in bed and wept, begging Mom to show up for me. I have ached for her advice. 

This past summer, Dad and I spent a blissful day playing with my niece down by the river. He gave her the safety speech I have heard countless times- the most important part of which is to “never fight the current”.  

For those of you who didn’t grow up with a dad with all the survival tips, here’s one for ya: when you’ve been swept away by the river, in a moment of panic you may choose to fight against the water, trying to get to the bank. All you will accomplish in doing so is exhausting yourself- with little progress to even show for it. It sounds counterintuitive, BUT if you give in to the current and allow the river to take you, it will naturally move you in towards the shore. 

If you’ve read a single post from me, Y’all already KNOW this is gonna be a metaphor.

I’ve been sad. Really sad.

Since the beginning of December, I’ve been wandering aimlessly through time, staring at my phone, doing only the things I absolutely have to do and nothing else. No reaching out, texting only when contacted first, I barely even want to talk to my dad at home. I’ve gone still. 

Depression runs deep in the family. I know what it looks like, I’ve had dips into it myself… yet even with this knowledge of myself, I’ve been exhausted trying to fight the thought that my depression is back and in control right now. 

I haven’t been aware of this happening, even. My brain determinedly, adamantly found other reasons for my recent mood and behavior. I even researched the symptoms of anemia thinking that could be it!!

Perhaps I’ve vaguely questioned whether this was the problem from time to time for the past several weeks, but today I looked out the window at the gorgeous sunny, snowy day outside and I thought “I know I should want to go out there but I just don’t. Oh… SHIT.” 

Admitting to myself that I am depressed right now somehow turned on the light in my head- I finally recognized the behaviors I’ve been displaying for what they really are- fighting the current and getting NOWHERE. 

Prolonging my own struggle back to shore. 

The confusing thing about depression is that can come from somewhere… or it can come from nowhere. 

I think my current state is the product of a lot of things- the worst breakup I’ve ever had, getting covid and the guilt and shame of having to tell people close to me, fear that I may have made them sick, the loneliness and helplessness of quarantining (during which I did nothing but grieve said ex-boyfriend), then the start of a new job…

I thought maybe that would help. Instead, it made me more sad. When I wasn’t taking steps to establish direction and purpose here in my hometown, I could still pretend that the move was still only temporary. That’s how I’ve thought of it this whole time- a product of a global pandemic, a waiting room of sorts, until I figure out what’s next. I didn’t allow myself to be HERE. I’ve been gone from Nashville for six months and somehow it still didn’t feel permanent until this week. 

This new job is a huge blessing- but it also further proved that my Nashville chapter has closed. This isn’t some bizarre experiment, dipping my toes into the water of a hometown return. Shit just got real. 

So… I’m just gonna ride the current now. 

I named it, now I don’t have all that doubt standing in the way of getting around to fixing it. 

Pragmatic acceptance. No more “maybe it’s my self-discipline, maybe it’s my sleep schedule, blah blah blah.” 

Just naming it had me out in our yard, ice skating in the day’s last bit of sunshine. I told myself that the light and fresh air would be the first prescription. And I could quit any time I wanted, as long as I just walked outside. 

By naming it, I feel allowed to take baby steps, go back to basics. Make the bed. Drink water. Pet the dog. Treat a shower like it’s the most important thing I’ll do today. (I should have known earlier when showering suddenly became exhausting… yikes.) 

But that’s how you find your way out. I’ve done this before. We think of surrender as such a dirty word- but sometimes it’s the right choice to make. Surrender the need for control, surrender that crazy human tendency we all have to get in our own damn way, surrender expectations for the future which comes at the expense of losing the present moment. 

Surrender to the current. It’ll bring me back. 

You’re a Person, Not a Product

*written in December*

I had a modeling job last week. LAUGH MY A** OFF. Me. Modeling. I can barely find decent pictures of me for this blog, that I post on twice a month. I just don’t like getting my picture taken. I like the idea of having nice photos of myself, but the process of getting them done? Blind panic, I mentally black out, and suddenly it’s over and I’m just sure I’ve messed it up. Trying to get better at it.

I even submitted myself for the gig thinking it was an acting position. Acting, I can do! I feel better in motion, like I’m not under the microscope because the frame will be replaced by another in less than a second. No freeze frames for me, thanks very much.

Imagine my surprise… but then I was already cast, so I rolled with the modeling! It was still incredibly fun and good to get back into the groove of entertainment, even if it wasn’t my preferred medium. It was a BLAST. One of the guys on set asked me how long I had been modeling, and I replied “oh no, I don’t do this, I’m actually a vocal coach!” But… why did I undermine myself like that? We were all there doing the same job…

A couple days later, I sat with the director and photographer after the shoot, had a beer, and admitted that sometimes I do photography too. Sheepishly. Self-depracating-ly. WHAT DID I MEAN, sometimes?! I’ve been paid so many times as a photographer! I filed it in my taxes! For goodness sake. Jadi.

And then I realized that this is the exact thing that’s been bothering me lately. The professional world wants us to be “something”. Preferably just one something. And if you dare to claim multiple “somethings” you better be top of your game at all of them, cause you’re being bold AF claiming multiple skills.

Okay maybe it’s not as threatening as all that, but it’s still there. I have been told that I should have an instagram account for my vocal coaching, separate from my personal one. And one for my blog. And for my photography. Sometimes I caved and listened to that advice. I tried to compartmentalize my life so that each account looked clean and shiny and straightforward. Professional. Branded. And that’s exactly what I was doing in these conversations at the photo shoots, too. This thought process wasn’t just in action on my social media accounts, it was bleeding into how I thought of myself.

It’s bizarre that while social media may have started to share our personal lives, it’s also become a power player in our careers. This may be the most integrated our professional and personal lives have ever been in history. George Washington didn’t have his every thought and move on display, in real time, you know?

I’m a human, though, not a brand. My instagram goes from coaching testimonials, to me on a mountain, to photos I’ve taken of beautiful places, snaps of Huckleberry, videos of my practicing songs, adventures with my dad, friends, family, memories of my mom. Posts about this blog. I want it that way.

I have been told that the key to my personal success, in ALL of these areas, is my humanity. My willingness to bring authenticity to the table. Shit, someone told me that last night. “I’m so in awe of your honesty and humanity.” (What a mind blowing compliment. Thanks Melanie! 😉) That may be the reason that you’re here reading my words right now. Why else would you be reading this?

So… why do we ask each other to pare ourselves down? To simplify our beautiful, complex lives. I mean, I’m not dumb, I get it. If we’re gonna work for ourselves, we gotta actually make money. And that means we need to draw in clients/customers/readers, etc. And that means we gotta be savvy. Branded.

I just… I can’t.

The reason you want me to give you voice lessons? Because I’m going to start the lesson by asking you how you’re doing. Because I am going to do my best to relate to you on a mental, emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual level. The only way, the only reason I can do that, is because of my wide breadth of experience and study. I’m going to use my theatre background. My songwriting and recording experience. My knowledge of the brain-body connection from being a dance teacher. My own grief and self development work to teach tenacity and perseverance. Grief made me lose my own damn voice, and I rehabbed it back on my own.

Believe it or not, these all play a role in the way our voices come out of our bodies. Singing is like… the humanity coming right out of you.

When I write for this blog, I use my artistry and other work as examples. All the time. I talk about my love for outdoor adventure, and half the time that’s what gets my writing gears turning in the first place. I skated on glassy, wild mountain ice in Glacier NP and stayed at a cabin on the lake last night. And now look at me, writing a post. 

The reason I started taking photographs? Because I realized that the photos we have of her in her last month will always be one of the most cherished things I have. 

Grief. Singing. Dancing. Acting. Photography. Adventure. Family. Now… modeling? HA! This may seem ADD but… well, I am, in fact, a creative with ADHD. So that’s pretty accurate!

I’m not an expert at all of these. But I was in the arena. Been there, done that. They all contribute to what I bring to the table. I’m not a brand. I’m a whole person leading a full life. So are you.

I don’t know how to proceed going forward. I know it makes sense to capture a client’s attention with simple, easy marketing. We’re already competing for their time amidst all the digital noise.

I just wonder if maybe I can prove that someone will want to work with me BECAUSE OF who I am and all that I bring to the table. Not in spite of it.

Grateful for Grief- What it Taught Me About Allyship.

I gotta say something. In this age of astounding access to information and connection, there’s opportunity to experience grief and NOT allow it to turn you into a horrible person. Right at our fingertips, we have crazy advances in psychology, sociology, self-improvement, therapists, medicine and health sciences (I know I’m forgetting a multitude of other areas of study) ALL DEDICATED TO MAKING US LIVE BETTER LIVES.

And then we turn around and let our grief destroy us? Destroy our relationships with not just our friends, family, and communities, but even ourselves? 

I can’t accept that. I have more faith in us.

And let me be clear, I have screwed up. This is not me pretending like I have it all figured out, like I got it right. But damn it, at least I’m trying. In my grief journey I have been a shitty daughter, granddaughter, sister, aunt, friend, roommate, coworker, employee… but each time I messed up, I let myself move forward by learning from it. Sadly, some lessons I had to hammer in multiple times, or even still stumble on. That’s okay. I’m not asking any of us to be perfect.

I’m asking us to believe in ourselves.

The only way to become a better person is to believe, right now, that you already ARE ONE. And then you’ll start behaving like it. You will never be better if you are still thinking your “current self” is no different from the person you wish could be your “old self”. You’ve got to let that old version exist only in the past.

I would not be the woman I am today without the last five years. I would give them back in a second to have my mom, but that’s not an option.

There’s always some pushback in my mind: how dare you even insinuate for a second that you’re grateful for what happened? How sick to find a silver lining in something so awful.

Well, I’ve compartmentalized. In my opinion, the death and the grief are two separate things.

I get it, one cannot exist without the other. But with these two categories, I’m able to make this distinction: I didn’t have a say in my mom’s death, but I DO have a say in my grief. There are things I can do now to get a better deal out of this. Perhaps this may have to become a series, because this is already too long.

So today’s topic- empathy as an ally.

I’m gonna do that cliché shit where you define the word, but I think it’s important because this is currently a hot button issue. Allyship: supportive association with another person or group.

That’s it.

Supporting someone other than yourself. It doesn’t say how, it doesn’t say who, or in what context.

For the rest of this post I ask that you try to keep this broad, literal definition of allyship. Because it applies to innumerable scenarios- not just the specific one that comes to your mind as you read.

When someone tells you about the shit going on in their life, what do you say? I’m sure you can call to mind those cringey moments where someone tells you something sad and awful, and you feel the immediate discomfort of your own helplessness.

So you overshare. And commandeer the conversation with your own troubles, leaving the other person feeling unseen and unheard, pushed entirely out of the picture. Invisible. -or- You undershare. And leave that person with the impression that you can’t (or won’t) understand, so they’ve revealed themselves for nothing. Vulnerable.

Invisible or naked, they’re alone.

And that kind of alone is as bad as it gets.

Whenever I find myself in that scenario, each time I try to strike the same note: “I will never be able to understand what you’re going through because every situation is so different- but I have understood pain and loss of my own, and I’m here to be a safe place for you to let that out.”

Even if someone tells me their mom has cancer, something I have experienced, that’s what I say. Because I don’t know what kind of cancer their mom has. Or what stage. Or how old she is, or what their relationship is like, or where they live in proximity to one another, etc. The infinite number of combinations of factors in our grief make every situation different. But… loss is loss.

Both parts of this response are important. I might as well just straight up say “I know pain intimately, but I won’t be an absolute asshole and act like an expert on yours.”

And I think we could all use a bit more of that approach lately. 

Time after time in 2020, I looked around the world around me in incredulity because I didn’t understand how so many people could be numb to the pain of others- the pain of sickness, oppression, and mental health crises. I wonder if I would have been as empathetic if I hadn’t gone to my own kind of dark place of fear, helplessness, and loss before.

When I saw everyone attacking each other, I thought, you just DON’T GET IT. How do you not get it?! 

And now I realize that’s the literal problem.

They didn’t get it. They didn’t understand. They hadn’t experienced significant loss yet.

OR they had- and then didn’t grow through their experience with grief. They didn’t let it open them up, they allowed it to shut them down. They don’t draw parallels between their own grief and that of others because it’s so easy to feel like our grief is unique and singular.

We simply HAVE to counteract those pitfalls and hold that duality of personal and universal together, one in each hand outstretched, offer it up to one another.

This past year, I saw my black friends grieving for their community and hurting, and raged at all the dismissive responses I heard.

I have learned myself that it takes courage to tell someone you’re hurting. And here was a whole group of people, offering their vulnerability, telling us just that. The amount of deaf ears it fell upon killed me, but not nearly as much as it killed them.

And now our AAPI folks.

I could go on. The list of people hurting, in a multitude of ways, after this year seems endless.

Fuck, man.

I will never understand sorrow for a whole community. For a whole ethnicity. It’s impossible to comprehend.

But that fact can’t be a cop-out, can’t be an excuse to not even try to empathize.

We’ve got to reach out both hands and say, “On the one hand, I get it. On the other, I never ever will.” 

Change Never Comes Without Loss

I haven’t posted in four months… that’s maybe the longest I’ve ever been silent since I first started. Doesn’t feel great. But, I understand why.

There’s been a lot of change in the past year. Just as I’d finally begun settling into Nashville, a world without my mom, and a career path I had so much hope for, BAM. The world came to a screeching halt. And then everything changed again. And I don’t like change. I don’t think that’s unique to me, either!

Continue reading “Change Never Comes Without Loss”