As a child, I acted out the GRAMMY awards with my stuffed animal collection. My koala bear never won; I always did (koala was cool about it). I imagined that winning a GRAMMY would feel like total infatuation with life; like my musical creations, born from my passion for music, were loved by many; like I was seen, heard, valued and understood by fellow creative artists. In my dreams, then, I was living the life I was meant to lead. I had purpose. I had a voice and I was using it to connect with and inspire others.
As a teen I became very goal-oriented and achievement-driven, looking for accolades, fame and recognition. While I won athletic, music and theater awards often enough, I felt restless soon after. I created a habit of living a future focused life, only happy when working toward some other goal, discarding it in my mind once completed.
In my twenties I quit a successful corporate career to pursue music. I was, I thought, “living the dream.” Imagine how embarrassing and devastating it was to learn that I couldn’t earn a living, and more importantly, I. Did. Not. Like. It. Not at all. Even when the gigs were good and the press was kind I felt the opposite of what I expected to feel. I felt hassled, tired and lonely, like a traveling saleswoman. I was peddling cover tunes I hated and sneaking in originals when the crowd was too busy playing pool to object. I stopped writing. I stopped connecting with people at shows. I had chased the outside vision of my childhood dream and had come up empty inside (again).
I took a break from gigging, felt horribly lost and depressed, and grieved what I perceived to be my inability to be happy. Clearly, I had it all in front of me: a guitar, a songbook, CDs with my face on the jacket, a monthly radio show, venues to play and people to play to, even some singer/songwriter awards and recognition, and I still wasn’t satisfied. I couldn’t fathom why I was here on Earth if I wasn’t meant to be a singer/songwriter.
Not knowing what else to do, I picked up a few more students at my part-time job as a vocal coach in town. Slowly, eventually, I realized that teaching allowed me to be very present. Other things began to occur to me: I am a morning person. Driving home at 2AM from grimy bars had kept me away from my beloved mornings for years. I like to eat well and exercise (not always options for the full-time gigster), and I love, love, love being involved with musicians who are optimistic, open minded, and full of life. Teaching singing and songwriting to young artists provided me with all of that and then some.
One day a pre-teen student confided in me that her school mates were making fun of her and calling her fat. I told her my story, that in 8th grade all of my friends broke up with me, one by one, because they wanted to be popular and they thought I was fat and ugly.
“Yeah, but you’re not fat or ugly,” she said.
I felt like I was hit by a bolt of lightning when I replied “And neither are you.”
We looked at each other through tears and smiled. I felt her see herself through my eyes and receive this truth. Then she sang. And it was beautiful.
That was my first GRAMMY moment.
I began to design my life around these feelings, taking on more students, studying the art of vocal coaching in greater depth, writing and performing only when the mood struck me. Years later I opened my own vocal coaching studio and now I’m training some of my original students to be coaches in their own right.
I am infatuated with my life; I feel valued and loved; I know that I am using my voice to connect with and inspire others.
When I look into the eyes of a 17 year old student who is accepting his value as an artist for the first time in his life, that is a GRAMMY moment.
When an eight year old student, who takes voice lessons with Nicole (a vocal coach I have trained for nine years), rocks our showcase to wild applause, that is a GRAMMY moment.
When a longtime student leaves for college and I am brave enough to cry huge, heartfelt tears with her, that is GRAMMY moment.
When I sing to a room of 20 or 50 or 300 people and the energy touches all of our hearts together, that is a GRAMMY moment.
How many times have you achieved a goal, only to find you couldn’t enjoy it? And the next morning (or the next minute) you found yourself feeling restless? Empty? Purposeless?
It’s not achieving that rocks our worlds, it’s being present with the feelings we most desire.
Find the feelings inside your secret dreams.
Let those feelings find you wherever you are. You do not need to earn them. You only need to identify them and then get ready to receive them.
Live your GRAMMY moments in your heart and shout “thank you” out loud.
PS: This GRAMMY belongs to a great friend and mentor who provides awesome advice and encouragement. I know that when I hold my own GRAMMY (or one of the ones my students will win) I will be ready to receive the feelings inside the original dream.