OK, coming up in the Missionary Baptist Church tradition, Lent was not heavily stressed in my experience. So I've never really obsessed about giving up some specific for the 40 day period. But this year, I've decided to give something up. No, it's not one of my favorite foods or TV shows. What I'm giving up is something that I have toted around for a very long time unnecessarily. It's something that has held me back from pushing forward as a musical artist for too long.
So, you ask, what is it already?!
Wait for it.........
It is FEAR. Specifically it is the fear of my inadequacy as a songwriter. Though at this point in my life and career I have come to finally really like my singing voice(and let me tell ya, that took a mighty long time) and my playing style on the piano(though I still fight occasional insecurity ). But I have continued to wrestle with self-acceptance as a songwriter. I started seriously writing my freshman year of college as I was playing in my first band and starting my formal musical training. I got positive feedback early on. But that little voice in my head still wasn't totally convinced that I was any good. As with my singing and playing, I kept pushing forward. But this was the area that I had the most insecurity with.
Fast forward to 2010. I finally left Gary, IN and was living in Long Beach, CA (I can't wait to go back but that's another blog). My roomie and great friend Eric Leocadio asked me to perform at some functions associated with his non-profit organization, the Catalyst Network of Communities. As he prepared publicity posts, he asked a question that was pivotal for me. He asked me if I considered myself a singer/songwriter. Hmmmm.....I had never really used that label before. But the truth was that I am a singer who was just starting to embrace his own songs that would be a staple of my show. It would be me singing and accompanying myself. I realized right then and there that I was in fact worthy of that identification. I had just gotten to the point where I ceased to compare my songs to those of the folks who inspired me and learned to look at my own songs as equally valid. This was a major breakthrough!!! Thank God for that and for my pal Eric for being the 'catalyst' for my progression!!
2011 has found me reassessing and planning anew for the next step in my career as a voice teacher and as an artist. As Lent approached, I knew that I wasn't going to delude myself with giving up pizza or M&Ms. I had watched a sermon by Joel Osteen where he talked about 2011 as a year of resurrection- for dreams, callings, careers. That stayed with me. It was a couple of days ago I realized that I have limited myself by not looking at my writing as an equal part of my journey with my singing, playing and teaching. What potential opportunities would I possibly be blocking by not fully exploring my role as a songwriter? So, I made the decision that I would finally silence that little voice that has tried to stifle Earl the writer. I am going to more fully explore where that aspect of my artistry can take me.
So, there you have it. For me Lent is not about giving up something that I enjoy like french fries and M&Ms(hmmmm-that's a recurring theme)but instead ridding myself of something that keeps me from soaring as high as I possibly can. Isn't that more of what God would want for me?
I have to thank Cari Cole, NYC based voice teacher and artist development coach, for the great articles and blogs she has written that helped challenge me to let go of the blockages.