the magnolias are blooming

I remember the first time I saw a magnolia tree.

I was 12 years old, and my family of six (at the time) was all packed up in our Chrysler Town and Country mini van, headed 14 hours south to Little Rock, Arkansas, so I could compete in the American Taekwondo Association World Championships. (I’ve mentioned in this space before that I’m a former overachiever.)

Strangely enough, this is one of my last memories as a kid – I mean, a true kid.
Before braces. Before my hair started to get frizzy. Before the awkwardness of growing breasts and hips and thighs. Before boys had their friends ask if you’d go out with them. Mostly untainted.

I loved Taekwondo as a kid. But I didn’t necessarily love the idea of outsmarting my opponents, trying to score points against them in sparring matches. The fighting was actually my least favorite part. What I loved most was the forms. Learning all the steps, the punches, the challenging kicks, and making them look as pretty as possible. I loved kicking above my head and leaving it up there, strong and steady. I loved using all my body strength to create one move, taking milliseconds to recharge, and doing it again.

So essentially, I loved the performance. I loved showing people I was strong, steady, a rock under pressure with all eyes on me. I had confidence here in the ring. Kid confidence. Confidence before metal wires were semi-permanently attached to my teeth. Confidence that I was an athlete – before breasts and hips and thighs could slow me down. Confidence I would get the biggest trophy. Confidence that Sonic, which I ate for the first time that trip, had the best food in the world, and magnolia trees were the most beautiful things I had ever seen, circling the drive of the Embassy Suites that June, with waxy leaves and flowers that bloom as big as your head.

And even through the excitement of the tournament – putting on my crisp, starched, white uniform, tying my blue belt in a square knot, Mom putting my hair in two french braids… I still remember the magnolia trees so clearly. I remember gasping at their beauty, asking my parents what kind of trees those were and as northern people, not being able to name them. But I had already decided they were my favorite.

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The Nashville spring rain came down in thick sheets as I walked to work earlier this week. So I looked down at my feet, careful not to step in the inches deep puddles. Classic Monday, I thought. Gloomy. Dreary. I’m tired. So tired, in fact, my boss sent me home a bit early because I looked it.

But the rain had stopped after work. And I walked to my car, thoughts whirling, hoping the first graders actually understood their math homework. But then I looked up, and I saw it. The magnolias are blooming, I said quietly to myself. And then I smiled, because I had been cursing the rain all afternoon, never looking to see those majestic white flowers popping up. And for some reason, I thought about Arkansas. About that kid confidence. How I thought President Bill Clinton Ave was the funniest name for a street I’d ever heard.

I used to drink in my surroundings like they were something intoxicating. Now some days it’s an effort just to look up. But I think if we remember to look around, we can always find some sort of magic, like the blooming magnolia trees, and we can always access little bits of that kid confidence. After all, things like that are only lost when we forget to look for them.

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who I needed when I was younger

I came across this photo I had saved on my phone over six months ago, probably to save for later, maybe as an inspiration. This photo simply said,

“Be who you needed when you were younger.”

It’s a nice sentiment, thinking about that. It made me go hide away in my bedroom and try to remember all the traits I wanted to cultivate within myself and how I longed to see those attributes in someone else. And I wondered if I had succeeded at any of those traits – it seems I am still working on most of them. But maybe that’s who I would have needed when I was younger…

Someone to show me it was okay to still be working on something, to start at the bottom and see improvement. Maybe I would have needed someone to show me it’s okay to ask questions, to say it’s okay if your life doesn’t look even a smidgen like you thought it would. It’s okay to feel yourself drift from who you were or who your friends are and explore that for awhile.

I think I would have needed someone to promise me that the self doubt would go away, that it would be crippling and then one day I’d realize I’d somehow been moving toward the things I’ve wanted all along. I think I would have needed someone to tell me that pride is such a silly little thing that masquerades as humility but has really been fear all along. I would have needed more people to see the beauty in my failures with me so I didn’t need to feel like I had to be so perfect all the time. Maybe I would have wanted to be included and invited in so I could feel like I had a right to hold space and be there, wherever ‘there’ was.

This is not to say that I did not receive any of these encouragements. I most certainly received a lot of love and support from my family and friends over the years.

Rather, this is a call to action for myself, or anyone else that spends time with people younger than they are. I am still trying to cultivate all these things for myself. But maybe I can do less judging, more encouraging. Am I as inclusive as I would like others to be for me? When I give in to my self doubt, am I showing someone else that their dreams are not worth pursuing? Am I giving space for people to ask those tough questions, or am I encouraging others to follow the crowd?

“Be who you needed when you were younger.”
Still workin’ on it 🙂

saturday mornings like these

i remember when i was a young 20 years old
i discovered how to be alone yet
not be lonely

but before then
i did not know how

i would wait in my dorm room
writhing in pain until i was in the presence of another human being
i was a proclaimed extravert
just constantly and consistently dying for human connection

but i was distracted
i did not know how to be alone with my thoughts
or how to make sense of
anything going on in my head

and it was at a young 20 years old
i would sit in my 7×12 little bedroom
smaller than many American closets
but with three windows covering one wall to the east
and learn to revel in my aloneness

it was there
in that little room
where i learned the immense joy of looking out a window
i learned to sit in my bed
for hours at a time
and listen to music that
made me feel things

i learned to hold a hot cup of tea in my hands
on saturday mornings
and just be happy at the warmth of it all
just to be enamored with the miracle of living

i learned how to let myself feel
to listen to my own goings on
and to let those be important
to let my thoughts hold weight

and yet in those mornings
i also felt such a deep love
for those people around me
day after day
perhaps even greater
than when i required being surrounded
by another for my happiness

so i think it is me
loving myself
giving myself time and space to feel
when i love others most

and it is on saturday mornings like these
i brew my coffee
become captivated by the way
an avocado looks cut in half
and recall that sacred falling in love
that took place
in my tiny little room

blind fear

In light of recent events, the whole concept of fear has been heavy on my mind.

Because it’s overwhelmingly everywhere right now; everywhere in the media with recent tragedies and the world climate summit and acts of terrorism around the globe.

And I hear people discussing the candidates for President in 2016. I hear them, see them sharing articles on Facebook, and have noticed a lot of the arguments and sides taken are based on fear too.

Fear of having our wealth taken from us. Fear of perpetual inequality. Fear of having our guns taken from us. Fear of unfamiliar people entering our country. Fear of living in a nation holding onto hatred. Fear of a crumbling environment. Fear of change. Fear of staying the same.

I remember coming to this conclusion in my mind and thinking “I hate when politicians try to sway people to their side by making people afraid.” And I think there are certainly times when both sides of the American public, conservative and liberal, are led to become afraid of things that aren’t really constitutionally possible. But then I realized that a lot of these fears are healthy and have their purpose to protect us.

For example, in my (very humble) opinion, if we never feared global warming and other environmental issues, we could irreparably damage our Earth and make it impossible for human life. If we never feared our country being attacked, we probably wouldn’t have a military at all, and America might no longer exist. If we never feared change, maybe some of our traditions and histories could be lost along the way. If we never feared hatred or inequality, we maybe never would have made these strides toward love and acceptance of all races, religions, and sexual orientations.

Are politicians, or the media in general, leading me to be afraid of things that could never happen? Just to get a rise out of me or to make me want to follow them? After all, when a politician is telling us to fear something, he or she usually has a plan on how he or she will protect or defend us when this thing happens. Like I said, sometimes these fears are legitimate, and we should be taking preventative measures. But many other times, planting these fears in our heads is simply a ploy to get us to hop on their bandwagon.

So this has made me examine my own political leanings to consider:

What am I being led to fear? Is it irrational or is it healthy? Does this fear serve me, or can I let it go?

And really, I should spend more time asking myself these same questions beyond politics. I should be examining things in my life I’m afraid of trying and chances I’m afraid of taking. Is this a healthy fear, or am I just too comfortable or lazy to try? Most times, these fears keep me safe and therefore, happy. But sometimes they don’t allow me to move forward, and the right thing would be to step into uncharted waters and try something new.

As Socrates once said (and my grandma often tells me) “The unexamined life is not worth living.” To never once take a closer look at what we believe and why is a tragedy. So I hope to time and time again ask myself:

What am I being led to fear? Is it irrational or is it healthy? Does this fear serve me, or can I let it go?

bare bones. no sugar.

Lately I’ve been learning a lot about honesty.

I’ve always thought of myself as an honest person. I didn’t see myself as someone who put on a mask all the time. I didn’t see myself as someone who elaborated a story to make it more exciting. I don’t feign sickness or hurt when I don’t feel like doing something.

But there are so many sides to honesty that our everyday definitions of the word never begin to see. Because what I’ve been learning lately is that honesty is something stripped down, bare bones, hard. It’s brave, because when you’re dishing out honesty, the outcome is solely up to the receiver; whether they are mad, happy, understanding, or disappointed.

A few months ago I found myself in a disagreement and misunderstanding. I was so torn up trying to plan and pick the exact words to make my side seen and heard. And I did. I set up an argument, like how you would have been instructed to in a freshman first semester writing class, about how unlikely it was for me to do such a thing. I researched. I persuaded. But there was still something lacking, still something unconvincing to the other person.

I made myself beat up, worn out, over this small issue. I laid in bed, feeling I’d exhausted all my options. When finally, a friend suggested to me,

“Why don’t you just be honest?”

And so I was. I essentially said, “I didn’t do that. I wouldn’t do that.” Somehow I forgot to mention the heart of the matter under all the extras I thought this discussion needed.

Honestly, (pun maybe intended) it was like a light bulb went on in my brain. I finally figured out that my methods for confrontation I’d been using for years didn’t work. As someone who has historically avoided conflict and wanted to please people and hinged some sort of an identity on being nice and keeping her cool, straight-up honesty has been masquerading with a bit of sugarcoating for awhile now.

I felt that in order to keep a relationship intact during any sort of conflict, I had to concoct the perfect monologue that would never hurt or rub anyone the wrong way. Let me tell ya, folks: it’s a lot of work. And because I was so fearful of sharing my feelings and opinions, I forgot about them for awhile. It’s been a process of figuring them out, and one that’s been going for a few years now. But this was the last straw, and I see it so plainly now: bare bones, no sugar. That’s honesty.

Because we all owe it to each other, don’t we? We are each given some absolutely incredible, wild, vivid, vast, unique feelings and stories. It’s a beautiful gift to be able to feel all these things within a lifetime; the least we can do is to be honest with ourselves and others.

So I’ve been trying to ask myself as often as I remember: what are you feeling, really? what are you thinking, really? and if no one else was around, would you still feel or think the same? Bare bones, no sugar.

Honesty is bravery, yes. Don’t all scenarios of courage hold hands with honesty? He finally did what he really wanted to do. She finally stood up for what was right. So it’s a letting go of sorts. It’s a giving of all you have and trusting it’s good enough, knowing that what you think and feel is enough, what you are is enough. It’s leaving everything up to the people who receive you and handing over the control, not trying to manipulate the outcomes, not trying to manipulate their feelings.

Because anything less than honesty with ourselves is holding us back. It’s holding us back from what we truly are and the beautiful beings we were created to be underneath. Bare bones, no sugar. We’re enough.

a requiem for hating my body

This story I’m about to tell you is not unique, but it’s mine, and I can guarantee most people have a similar story. There’s no dramatic story here of anorexia or bulimia, over-exercising, or bullying from classmates about my size, though many people, men and women, have these stories to tell, and it’s heartbreaking. I’m sure girls who were physically larger or smaller than I have similar memories, whatever the details are. The majority of us have a story where we feel less than our classmates and peers because of these bodies we were gifted with.

My story starts here.

I distinctly remember the first time I felt unhappy with my body. I was in fourth grade, at church of all places, and I remember sitting next to my friend whom I’d known since birth, someone who I’d always considered an equal to myself, whether that be beauty, brains, etc. And I remember looking down at our short-clad thighs touching the wooden pews and noticing her thighs were smaller than mine. And this thought ran through my little 9 year old brain that maybe something was wrong with me – maybe my thighs should be as skinny as hers – and because of this difference, I felt for the first time I was less than my friend.

And so began my journey with dissatisfaction and unhappiness with my body.

In middle school, I remember feeling awkward much of the time, but doesn’t everyone? I was skinny in weird places and had “fat” in others – my body was changing, just like it was supposed to. On top of that, I matured a few years earlier than most of my friends, so I felt especially awkward. I remember wearing a one piece at the pool when my friends were wearing bikinis, because I was very afraid of showing my stomach if it was larger than theirs.

If my memory is correct, I’ve always had a very healthy appetite, maybe even too healthy. I grew up with the classic Midwestern meals of meat and starch and was encouraged to seconds and thirds and felt badly if I didn’t clean my plate, no matter how much food I was served. But according to my mom, when I started high school, I exercised too much and ate too little. I was the smallest I’ve ever been in an adult body at that point, and I probably could never be that small again with any amount of diet and exercise.

I was happy with that very tiny size, but it was not sustainable. Gradually, I eased up. I put on a little weight and no longer took an hour to get ready in the morning. I ate normal amounts of food. I was very healthy and active, usually at school from 7 am to 9 pm doing all sorts of extra curriculars (I’m a former over-achiever). But in my mind, with this more healthy size came less approval from my male classmates. I had a very long list of things I would change about myself that I was sure would make people like me more. Less fat on my tummy, smaller thighs, less acne, a shorter and less pointy nose, eyes that didn’t crinkle up so much when I smiled.

When I look at photos of myself from high school, though I know it was filled with lots of teenage angst and turmoil, I see a very healthy and happy girl. But in my high school mind, I had felt like there were abnormal amounts of flaws that verged on making me unlovable to a male partner. It’s absurd, really – but it’s not unique. Most of us feel like we have this physical ugliness we won’t be able to overcome.

College was a totally new experience. I still knew I had imperfections; it was more of a journey of listening to my body. Drink enough water, don’t eat too much fried chicken and ice cream. I still felt the unnecessary necessity to clean my plate. I didn’t know how to listen to my stomach telling me it was full or thirsty. I wasn’t involved in three sports to keep my body in shape anymore. Working at restaurants makes you eat a lot of unnecessary food, even if you are on your feet and walking for hours at a time. Although I no longer hated my body, I still treated it like I didn’t really care for it.

And so it has been a swinging pendulum with self-love and self-care – hating my body, trying to run my ass off, realizing I hate running more than I hate my body. Loving my body, being good to it for about a week, then falling out of routine and not able to establish the right habits.

So naturally, I just finished a diet. I don’t think I’ve ever actually done one – I hate the concept. But after a summer of eating food served to me at a children’s camp (starch+starch+starch) I wanted to eat normal, healthy amounts of food again. Correct sized portions. I wanted to be kind to this one body I get for this lifetime, not achieve a certain look. I didn’t want six-pack abs or to look like a super model; I never will, and that’s just the way I’m built. I want to be strong and able-bodied and alive with energy.

So I portioned my food into color-coded containers. I worked out with a super-fit woman in tiny shorts on my laptop screen every day, telling me to give it my all. I felt silly. I probably bothered my downstairs neighbor. I cheated a few times. But I didn’t give up, and I feel a lot more healthy now.

In the videos, the super-fit woman says “Give me 21 Days and I’ll give the body you always wanted” while you’re supposed to be doing push-ups for a minute and you want to shout cuss words at her because it’s hard. But that body I always wanted in high school no longer exists anymore, because it’s unrealistic. I’ve never had a thigh gap and I never will. My heritage is a long line of farmers and hard workers and cold weather people who need strong bodies and a few extra pounds to keep them warm. My heritage is tall, strong, beautiful women who are guessed to be ten years younger than their age. My heritage is lion-hearted women, people of faith, people of impeccable moral standard. And now, this is the body I have always wanted, not because it’s perfect, but because it’s mine, and it’s the only one I’ve got.

all that happens in a year

I think one of my most memorable moments of last year happened in a Target parking lot.

It was August. It was hot. (I don’t remember why I was at Target, but does there really have to be a reason to go?) All I knew at that moment was I have no idea what I am doing with my life right now. And there I was, crying to my hands in the drivers seat.

I had applied to maybe ten or twelve jobs at that point after returning from Iowa. My prospects seemed slim. I could go back to being a hostess, I could get a job in retail. But I didn’t just spend four years in college to do what I did while I was in school. Like many newly graduated college kids, I felt really hopeless. I began to question the worth of my education. I thought of the shoulda, coulda, woulda. Why didn’t I get more internshipsWhy did I major in music? Why am I back in Nashville? It all seemed empty with roads leading no where in that Target parking lot that day.

And it’s been a year since then. And honestly, I still questioned how much I was moving this year. I often felt like I was slipping backwards or just grinding my gears. Because we pull up social media and see only the good parts of people’s lives. There were times when I saw someone else’s life and envied them, even when I examined my own heart and knew I would never want that life for myself.

There were times I felt unstable, unmotivated. I hadn’t made a list of what I wanted, but I felt I wasn’t accomplishing anything, nonetheless. Because finding out what you want your life to be, for your joy and yours alone, is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

And since I’ve been here for a year now, I’ve stepped back and seen it all in perspective. It was the little job I took at the Jewish Community Center, where I learned how to command the attention of a couple dozen children and be kind yet firm, gentle yet stern. It was being positively reinforced, being told your instincts are right, just follow them. It was admitting there was a lot I didn’t know, but showing up to learn all the same. It was the confidence I gained as a leader after taking a couple years in the backseat.

This year was months of writers block, when the words just wouldn’t come, when the music wasn’t anywhere to be found. It was sparsely written journal and blog posts, just wanting to express something, just wanting to say something relevant. But I learned you don’t always get to pick what your muse gives you. You may want to create something deep, relevant, and revolutionary, and all you get is a cheesy pop song. Be thankful you created something today, and keep going. I learned that those months of silence were a time of healing and learning to give myself grace.

This year (honesty, again) was lonely at times. After college, our friends disperse. We take different paths. We grow in different ways. We may even decide those friendships no longer serve us in a healthy way. Or we may learn we want to deepen those friendships despite the changes.  In the end, we are all becoming older, hopefully wiser, hopefully closer to becoming our truest selves. And I am so grateful for these relationships that allow us to grow in conversation, to be there with encouragement when times are rough. It is a beautiful thing when you find even one person that shows you just exactly the way you are is perfectly okay and I will be there for all your wanderings. These are the things, I am finding, that make life a little more full.

So, stepping back, I see now that this year was never stagnant. I may have been fixing my eyes on things I shouldn’t have been, but I was always moving forward. I was growing in experience. I was getting stronger. I was healing. I was shedding some things that no longer fit. This new year brings me a new job in a distinguished private school, hopefully many more words and melodies, and the chance to deepen my relationships with some beautiful humans.

September, here I come.

home

I’ve lived in Nashville for five years now.

Sometimes I just state this fact over and over in my head. Five years. Five years! It seems like such a long time. And I think of all the roads I have taken and all the things I have learned in my time there. I never could have imagined finding a home in a place so unlike the place where I grew up. But I have. I round the curves of highways, look at the sunset glowing like fire off the tops of the skyscrapers downtown, and feel a sense of peace. I walk down the road to the park two blocks from my house and know just how my steps will go. I wake up in the morning to my roommates of three years, though not knowing them completely, knowing many of the things that make them tick and their habits throughout the day.

I don’t claim to like routines, and I don’t claim to have one, but I guess I do. I have fallen in a rhythm with this once unfamiliar city. Sometimes it is slower than I would like it to be – sometimes it is much faster and I’m crying out for places without cell phone reception. But still, I have made a home of it. But there are lots of places I call home, lots of places where I find comfort.

And I’m back in the Midwest for a few weeks.

There’s something about making my connection in the Minneapolis airport and hearing the accent again, the one that people tease me for, but I don’t mind. I feel that Minnesota and Iowa nice and it warms my heart right up. It took me a few years to feel pride for it all, but I loved growing up in the Midwest. When I tell people I grew up in Iowa, their response seems to usually be “You must have been bored out of your mind.” And although I may have wished for mountains and oceans and city lights, I don’t think I was ever bored. Because there was always something to discover. I never had any sort of illusion that I’d seen it all; I don’t think many people in the Midwest do. I never had any sense that where I lived was the center of the universe. I never had any illusion that was the point. And because I grew up in a place some would consider dull, I think it gave me a greater appreciation for the beauties many have grown accustomed to.

There’s a genuineness here that you don’t find anywhere else. And people are kind, for no reason or maybe every reason. Yes, there’s the small town gossip, but every place has its gossip. Even in the city, people create their own small town pockets and communities and gossip travels through just the same. And sure, to some it may be uncool or behind-the-times or too simple, but I’ve met so many people with happy, good hearts that I know it can’t be bad, just different. The other day I met a recently married couple in their twenties who had decided to give up their smart phones for little prepaids – not because they couldn’t afford it. They were both well-paid nurses who lived in a house in the suburbs, they weren’t radicals in any way. They just knew their money could be spent elsewhere. “We wanted to be more present with each other.” And that’s freaking cool to me, guys.

And in the midst of being in the land that built me, there is this feeling of home and heartland that feels so strong to me. I know there is so much more to see – this vast universe out there before me. I want to touch grains of sand thousands of miles away and stand on mountaintops and taste foods I can hardly pronounce. But it still feels so good to pull into the gravel driveway and look out upon the rows and rows of corn and soybeans that framed my childhood, to breathe in that rural Iowa air scented of sweet black dirt and farm animals and feel that familiarity again. Yet Nashville holds me too; it is shaping me in ways I never could have imagined and connecting me with beautiful colorful people I am so lucky to have met. 

Home is lots of things to many people, but I will sum it up as this:
Home is a place where you can grow; body, mind, and/or spirit. Sometimes your roots are in different places, gathering water and sunshine from areas that feel so far apart, but where you are still connected. And this place, whether it’s the land or the hearts of people you love, holds you and says grow – grow into all you were made to be.

happiness hurts, sometimes

Growing up, I was always that girl who smiled a lot. Ask any of my childhood friends. I was mostly always happy, always smiling. I had a very frustrated 5th grade classmate once ask me if I ever cried, to which I replied of course I do. I was always compliant. I always said yes. I had a friend who, in 7th grade, wrote down in her planner this day when I strongly told her “No!” I wasn’t going to buy her a peanut butter sandwich. She marked it in her planner for a few years after that – “the day that Ro said no.” I’ve always had this genuine desire to be happy and for things to be harmonious.

Whenever my grandma would pick me up from school, at least once a week, she would ask me how my day was, to which I would always reply “good!” Of course every day wasn’t good. But there was always some silver lining of goodness. I don’t particularly remember ever feigning or hiding behind my smile. In my child mind, there was a reward to my happiness. People usually responded to me with the same demeanor. People seemed to like me better. In the Midwest, one of the most celebrated qualities someone can have is usually their kindness. We’re mostly a bunch of extroverts that just want people to be nice to each other. (I realize this is a generalization but look at http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB122211987961064719)

I realize the world is made up of all kinds of people. Some places, people want you to be nice. Others, they just want you to stay out of their way. And this is the way the world works. So I also realize happiness comes with a stereotype sometimes. That because I’m a young woman and nice and generally cheerful, people can assume I don’t know very much. I can tell by the way they call me sweetie or the way they feign their own happiness to make fun of me. And if I was cold and hard and aloof, people would think I was smarter, more educated, more cultured. I would never win a contest in “who’s had the hardest life,” but I wouldn’t win “who’s had the easiest life” either. It’s like they’re saying to me if you aren’t trying to shut this crazy world out, then you’re a damn fool, girl.

But the thing about putting on that armor is nobody can hurt you. 

You don’t get to let anyone in when you do this. No one gets to see any intricacies of your heart and what could make you smile. And when you’re friendly to strangers, there’s always the possibility of getting your heart broken. If you invite someone into your home, they could come back to take everything inside. Sometimes wearing a smile is like holding a target saying knock me down to your level.

Happiness hurts when the exchange of kindness isn’t reciprocated, when you’re just getting Monopoly money, when it feels like a shady exchange just went down. Happiness hurts when you gave your best and the other person didn’t give anything but still came out with the upper hand.

Believe me, there have been fickle little periods of my life when I’ve decided I’m going to try pessimism on. I try not to believe in anything and see the world as stone cold. But it doesn’t fit, doesn’t look good on me. Because even though happiness can hurt me, I still find myself believing at the core of my being that people really are good and kind and honest at the heart of it all. And as truly uncool as that is, I’m owning up to it. And I guess I didn’t write this to try and sway anyone to one side or another, but to be a permissionary of sorts, and say, hey. I’ve figured out I’m one of those happy people that has to believe in something or it just doesn’t feel right. And it hurts like hell sometimes. But it’s me, and I can’t be anything different. 

Keep singing.

I’m very lucky to be a part of a group of friends who call ourselves “singers.” Some of us did it all throughout college just for fun and some of us want to teach others the joy we’ve found in it and some of us love nothing more than performing for a crowd. Either way, singing is the glue, a sort of lifeblood, that always connects us underneath. We have this common passion for music that’s made all of us, in some way or another, want to pursue this in our lives.

And that being said, we usually don’t talk about it. And I guess that’s why I’m writing this – because we never feel the need to mention this burning thing inside all of us. Sure, we talk about music, just not often our own journeys with it. And I’m not saying that should or should not change, I just want to say the things we’ve maybe all assumed each other knows. I want to say it especially from me, because I encourage people far less than I should. And that’s this:

Keep singing.

There’s always the random old guy that comes to the show and finds a group of performers afterward and says, “That was great, you kids! Keep singing!” And if you’re like me you never take those compliments to heart. And if the choice ever comes, do I keep singing?, you probably won’t think back to the random old guy in order to make your decision. I’m hoping my opinion carries a little more weight than his. I’m hoping that we, as friends, are never the reason that one of us doubts this thing we all love so much. So I’ll say it again:

Keep singing.

Keep writing, keep doing whatever it is you want and makes you happy. Because chances are, there are people somewhere ANYWHERE trying to tell you that who you are and what you are doing isn’t good enough. I’ve learned that sometimes there really are people telling me that and others it’s my own insecurities realized in the supposed opinion of someone else. Learn to decipher which is which, and then DON’T LISTEN TO ANY OF THAT NOISE. What you’re doing is worth it simply because you love it and for no other reason, and there are times we have to fight for it.

Maybe you’re in school right now and you’re singing ALL THE TIME and it’s great. (I would want to be back at school for no other reason than that) But I remember sometimes I got lost in all the corners of nit-picking and who’s better. Developing your craft is so important, as well as learning correct technique. Competition, even, can inspire us to be better. But just remember there’s a whole another world, city, Belmont University, even, out there, and to come out for some air and some perspective once in a while. Remember that you love to sing, and that’s why you’re doing this. If you’re doing the best you can the hardest you can, there’s no qualms.

Maybe you’re currently like me in that you’re out of school and your daily activities don’t require you to sing. This is the first time in my life when I have not had a set time (by school, mostly) out of six days of the week strictly dedicated to singing. I’m finding I have to make myself sing. I have to set aside time for it by my own volition now. But guys, it’s always so worth it. Because it’s this thing that makes me so happy. And because it’s this thing I love, not because it’s worth money or it’s perfect or will be a big hit or is better than someone else’s, singing automatically has value, even if it’s just for me.

Maybe you’ve already come or will come to a point in your life where you decide to find other means of supporting yourself and they don’t involve music. Keep singing. In your house, your car, as much as you want, just because it brings you joy. Just because you’re not doing something professionally doesn’t mean it can’t be worth it for yourself or somebody else.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I love you guys and I’ve seen the looks on all of your faces when you sing. I know it brings you absurd amounts of happiness. And I would hate to find that one of us had come to think of music as an unworthy pursuit. I’m finding the thing that speaks loudest of friendship is showing up, being there, when you weren’t sure who would come. I know all of us, though we may never say it, are human beings and want support and encouragement for the things we love. That being said, don’t sing for me or for your parents or teachers or OG Wing Night or the whole wide world. Keep singing for yourself just because you love it and it’s dear to you.