I realized this morning that I have not written since I left Gustavus. I entertained the horrible thought that any writing skill I possessed was solely inspired by my time in the north country. Gustavus is such a very unique community that I can’t seem to keep from writing about my experiences there. Indeed, at times I find that I can hardly keep up with the ideas swirling around my head. Which storyline to follow? Which rendition of the beauty of place to attempt to represent in photos or the written word?
Life in limbo feels somewhat less inspired, though perhaps it is because I have fallen subject to the temptation of comparison. It is an exercise in futility and certainly one that will never succeed in elevating one’s sense of self. My confidence already rests in a shaky place, and there seems to be no dearth of individuals who are more accomplished, more beautiful, and more skilled than I will ever be.
This past summer and into the fall, a fellow cohort member in the PhD program identified me as the pilot guinea pig for teaching a method of songwriting he created called Story-to-Song for his dissertation work. One of the first questions I asked him when we began working together stemmed from my own insecurities—why me? Why not work with a real musician? A real artist?
I recently happened upon a series of unfinished phrases I jotted down this past fall after yet another interrogation of why in the world an accomplished, professional musician and composer would choose to work with someone like me?
November 22, 2011
The reason Mlm wants to work with me is that he believes that I am doggedly perceptive
For example: Number of music files Mke sends exploring a myriad of tiny details
Mlm has found his musical other, someone who is his equal in number of files sent
We are in this together; this will help us to have very high quality output; solidarity
Mke appreciates that Mlm responds so quickly to her emails, texts, and files; this helps her feel valued and that Mlm cares and is invested in the work
I think it is easier to put on the fascade that we are confident beings as we walk down the street or interact with peers and colleagues. It is even fairly straightforward to explain to friends and family why it is fruitless to compare oneself to others and far more effective to focus on one’s accomplishments and skills.
So why is it so difficult to follow my own advice?
Why do the precious few individuals who make me feel crummy about myself win out over the myriad people from my life who have expressed unmitigated confidence in me?
I recently worked on a song with Malcolm that stemmed from a spoken story that I shared with the Voice Memo program on my ipod touch. The story was about body image, something I have struggled with for most of my life despite the many people who have told me I am beautiful. Somewhere along the line the opinions of a few and the overwhelming voice of the media succeeded in planting a very strong seed of doubt that has since grown into a good-sized tree.
The exercise of writing and sharing the song with a few friends was certainly cathartic, but I continue to struggle with the issues raised. I was particularly interested in a line from the story that did not make it into the final version of the song. It was about turning thirty and still struggling. When will I finally let it go?
Well, here I sit. An unpublished PhD student between jobs with dwindling bank account funds but with people around the world who love me and believe in me.
And so it goes. La vie continue quand meme.