Last week, an article on former Columbia University student Nayla Kidd, made the headlines…again. This time after two weeks of the cops searching and her mother worrying, Nayla was found alive and well in New York City. She had completely ditched her cell phone for a new one, shut down her Facebook account, quit school, and rented a room with two artists. She recounts her own story for the New York Post as feeling tired, completely uninterested in the kind of prescribed life of excellence she patterned as a high-achieving student.
I cried reading this article because I saw myself in her story and felt so proud of her for taking the reigns of her own life at an early age. I know too well this path of achievement and unreasonable expectations that I placed on myself and that I learned from others. I loved school because it was the place where I excelled and people noticed and had great things to say.
But, I wanted people to say how great of a singer I was, or a songwriter, or a dancer and that, “you should pursue your music”. Thinking back, some did complement me but I didn’t believe it. I didn’t like my own voice. I’ve participated in the choir at school, have written songs since I was 15 years old and each one was an inspiration and a light for this emotionally sensitive introvert.
You don’t receive grades for songwriting and dance, at least not at my high school. Though music was valued, I didn’t value my contribution to it. I had no confidence in my abilities because I was waiting on someone to tell me, “girl, you have the voice of an angel, your songs touch me, go study music.” I was waiting on approval of myself because I didn’t approve of me. But when those straight A’s came in, that was the approval I needed that told me to go to college and study something practical (unlike music) so I could get a job.
Even my grades in music class and choir were A’s, and I still didn’t believe in me. There’s just no way this mid-western kid with mediocre talent can make it in music as a songwriter or a singer. My dream…was to write songs for Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson and be a background singer. I never wanted to sign a record deal because I didn’t want to be owned by the record company and have them own my master recordings (there went that thinking mind again reading up on the Stevie Wonder and Teena Marie experience with Motown).
My dreams were bigger than the songs, I wanted to bring inspiration and joy and be a light with my songs. Instead, I chose the “hard” route which I thought was the easy route which was school for most of my life. It provided every credential, every critical thinking skill, and educational path that allowed me to work in the “real” world. While I died inside from dissatisfaction and disconnection from what I truly desired.
It has taken me 20 years…20 years to fully accept all of me at this time. I’m grateful for the educational experiences and the friends I met along the way, but I most remember my parents being proud of me. My dad told me when I said to him I wanted to change my major in college to music (but I didn’t), “Gina, I would love to see you on a stage playing a piano. I’m not worried about you, you’re going to do well at anything you do.” And I still didn’t believe it for myself. I had an esteemed professor at UCLA write a recommendation letter for me saying the same thing. What was it going to take for me to believe in me??
Like Nayla, I was squeezed, the pressure built, and I kept waking up in doom and gloom and had to change things. The main change came in my mind. Changing my mindset and telling myself the truth. I am talented, beyond the books. I can use my education and work experience in creative ways. I can still create, sing, dance, dream. No, I’m not the powerhouse singers like Rachelle Ferrell or Jazmine Sullivan or Brandy but they’re not me either. My songs, my writing inspires me and I know it can inspire someone else.
It didn’t happen over night, and I dare say it is still a growth edge for me at 41. Approval can be a bitch in sheep’s clothing. Grades, traditional education has its place. But so does the heart and need for love, community, like-mindedness, light-heartedness, desire, and fun. It’s never too late.
Nayla’s mother embraced her when she saw her again, all of who she was in that moment. And, I think on a major level Nayla forgave herself. I forgive you Regina.Thank you Nayla!
Peace for the Journey All.
I want to hear your truth and stories of liberating yourself into the life you want. What did you do? What was the shift? Let me know in the comments below.
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