When I was five years old, I told my Kindergarten teacher I wanted to be an artist.
When I was five years old, there was only one kind of artist: the paintbrush kind.
When my parents were deciding which elementary school to enroll me in, I had two options. For me, the decision-making process was relatively simple—I chose the school with better coloring books. I drew and painted and colored all kinds of “masterpieces” of every furry, four-legged friend I could think of, and I have to say, I was pretty good for a five-year-old.
I’m still pretty good.
… for a five-year-old.
So it turned out miniature!me was a little delusional on the color-palette-and-smock artist front. That was okay, though, because by the time I hit third grade I discovered what kind of artist I was really destined to be…
Cue me singing into a hairbrush in front of my bedroom mirror.
I spent a good portion of my childhood staging fake concerts with my cousin, Jessica,—set lists were comprised solely of songs by Shania Twain and Hilary Duff, of course—and blocking musical performances in my head complete with spotlights, costumes and microphone tricks. I set up a “studio” in our basement, which really entailed little more than a desk, a CD player and a sign that read “Jade’s Studio.” I told everyone I wanted to be a singer. Actually, no, I told everyone I was going to be a singer. One day I would be randomly discovered by a talent scout in a mall who would get me my own show on the Disney Channel, where I would rise to fame and be envied by every kid in my class. Everyone would know my name, and my life story would air frequently on the Biography Channel. That was my dream, and that’s what I was going to do. I just had to wait for it to happen.
When I was eleven years old, I decided to write a song. No reason, really, just thought I’d try it out. I failed miserably. A few months later, I had locked myself in my room, riddled with imaginary problems and tween angst, lonely and wishing for mister tall-dark-and-handsome to show up at my window and take me away. That’s how Someone To Save Me happened, the first song I ever wrote. I didn’t write it to please anyone and I sure as hell didn’t write it to show anyone; I didn’t plan on writing it at all, when all of a sudden there it was, lying on my bed in all its scribbled, scrap paper glory. Finished. And you know what? It actually wasn’t bad. That’s when songwriting became my outlet for all the things I couldn’t say.
As is the norm, I suppose, I got more self-conscious as I got older. About everything, but most of all about singing. It had been my love, my “passion” as I sometimes dared to call it, for so long that I couldn’t stand the thought of someone telling me I sounded bad. So, I stopped singing in front of people. If I was at a birthday party where there was karaoke, I would shut the lights off and sing one verse, and everyone had to turn around. Even still, I was terrified, and my old love of performing was overtaken by my incessant fear of not being good enough.
When I was thirteen, I took up guitar lessons. I quickly found them awfully boring. Simply strumming a five-chord song for three minutes just wasn’t enough when I knew every word to it. Eventually, I worked up the courage to sing along with my playing. The first time my guitar teacher heard me, he asked me to join a band. Now, I think it would’ve been a really cool experience. Then, I was thirteen and the idea of singing in bars didn’t appeal to me at all, and singing in front of people was even worse. I said no. He kept asking. I quit lessons after less than a year without any notice and started learning from the wife of one of the pastors at my family’s church, who turned out to be one of the biggest supporters of my singing ever. Still, I never thought I was any good.
Around the time I entered high school, my throat decided that singing was overrated. Furthermore, the use of vocal chords in general just didn’t really need to happen. Speaking for long periods of time? Speeches? Yeah, no. That wasn’t permitted. Instead, I got sore and scratchy throats, a frequent inability to swallow, voice cracks, and figuratively and literally lost my own voice, taking medication after medication that never really healed anything, wishing for medication to heal my spirit because it was so wounded I didn’t know who I was anymore. For the first time in my life, I hated my voice. I loathed it. I couldn’t sing if I wanted to.
Four years later, I still have the same old issues, only worse and with fancier names. Chronic sinusitis, complicated by chronic rhinitis, complicated by environmental “allergies” (though to this day I haven’t a clue what I’m actually allergic to). Thankfully, however, I also have better ways of handling them. I’m slowly finding my voice again.
Which brings me to the actual point of this post (I know, finally!). Until this year, there was virtually no one in my life who I still talked to that had heard me sing at all. I can still count on one hand the number of people who have heard a song that I penned, but a few months ago, that whole I’m-not-singing-for-anyone-ever-again thing was effectively ruined by my best friend, the eternal open book. Half of her hometown’s population has probably heard me sing (and butcher the lyrics of) “Rolling in the Deep” at this point thanks to an iPhone recording I impulsively decided to email her one day. So, people heard me sing, and lo and behold, I have yet to die as a result of it. That realization brought me here. My dream for this blog is for you to see, and when I’m brave enough, hear, some of the chaos that goes on in my head. I’m never going to sound perfect, so I’ve decided I might as well stop trying to and just have fun.
Five-year-old me was oblivious to the fact that there were millions of people, younger and older, who could draw and paint twice as well as she could. A slightly older me thought she would be that one-in-a-million girl who would become the next Disney sensation. It’s not that I was full of myself,—on the contrary, I was a painfully shy little thing who’d seek validation from anyone— it’s that I was unaffected. Incredibly naïve, sure, but mostly just unaffected by the world. I think a true artist is unaffected. A master of his or her craft because they don’t create to please people; they create for the pure love of it. Because it just feels right somehow.
I don’t want to be a singer, nor could I be even if I did. I want to be involved in the film and television industry (oh look, more art!) in any way that I can be, but music still remains such a huge part of who I am. Lately there’s been a few of you—you know who you are, and you’re amazing—who have been crazy nice and encouraging and ego-inflating and really vocal about wanting me to share more and… I want to share. I really do. And more than that, I want to not feel awkward or weird about it. I want to not care so much! I want to be unaffected. Not just with this, but in many ways.
If I can do that, starting with something as small as this, maybe one day I could make a certain blonde-haired, blue-eyed Kindergartener proud and become an artist.
Now playing: “The Writer” – Ellie Goulding