By Beverly Grafton
Photo courtesy of Beverly Morata Grafton
Last week I reflected on my own journey through the first half of the year. The difficulties making ends meet, being forcefully removed from life as I knew it, my freedom taken away from me and the worst, losing my ability to contribute as a functioning member of society.
In short, I lost myself.
I left a rather discouraged post on Facebook, resigning myself to my fate. I stopped fighting it. Kinda like Jennifer Connelly in the movie, Labyrinth, with the late David Bowie, in the scene where, to find the Goblin King's castle, all she had to do was to give up and there she was, right in front of it. So too, did help appear the moment I gave up. My BFF Shimona, who made the huge life decision to give up her career and life in Singapore to move to Melbourne with her husband, read my post and decided that Bevie needed a good ole pep talk. And just at the right time too. My daughter and I finished lunch and as I retreated to my bedroom, I had heard her on the phone, with her best friend, casually saying she is bored and needed someone to talk to. I silently wished I had that still, as all my BFFs had all but upped and moved away to other countries.
Lo, and behold, that's when Shimona called. Just like that. No preempting, no texting ahead, she just called. And in that one call, she set my head back on straight.
She reminded me that thanks to 20 years of being a self-employed, freelance performer, I had many transferable skills. I knew how to write proposals, do costing, make my own costumes, do my own styling/hair/make-up, invoices, I'm creative in problem solving and forward-thinking business ideas (working on a business plan or two at the moment), I can think fast on my feet, I can write...etc...
One phone call, from a dear friend, with the most suitable approach and the right intentions. One phone call. That's exactly what it took to wake me up from my downward spiral into the one place I swore I'd never let myself go to, depression. To this day, three months after that call, I shudder in fear of what my state of mind would've been if Shimona didn't reach out to me. The gratitude I have towards her is so great, I can only honor it by paying it forward. So, armed with my newfound confidence in my self and my abilities, I set out to conquer my obstacles.
Step one was to learn to ask for help. We were brought up with pride in earning one's keep. To ask for a handout was a humiliation in every sense of the word. The thing is, when your situation is due to a force majeure event, seeking help is not humiliating. What it is instead, is humbling. I needed help the most with my living situation. Not being able to pay rent for three months is excruciating for me. So believe me when I say that I have never been as grateful in my life for my husband, my mother-in-law and my tribe of true friends, as I have in the last three months.
It was then that I learned to recognize why I have such supportive and amazing friends who willingly step in to save the day. I have striven to be a genuine person and my tribe, who have seen me at my worst and best, know that I am as authentically me as I can get and I'm not sorry. Yes, so long as you achieve some modicum of fame, there will be haters. As sure as the sun will rise in the east, there will be haters. I have learnt to wish them well and love from my heart because I know I've grown and so I pray they too, will grow. But I digress.
Once my living arrangements were sorted, I needed a new way to generate income. Somehow, my love for writing caught the attention of my fellow Affluent Society affiliate and mentor, Lionel Lee, who offered me this blog and the opportunity to reach a wider audience through the global platform, Affluent Society. Concurrently, I started to gain attention from voice students who wanted to improve on their technique. Soon, I started to see my week fill up with reasons to leave the house.
Do you have any idea the kind of relief and excitement that washes over me each time I get an inquiry that leads to a sign-up for vocal technique lessons? I'll tell you, it's equivalent to a kid opening every single birthday present and finding that each one is something they actually really want. Even better than that, when the student shows marked improvement in just a few lessons, I feel like my mana has been restored(gamers will know what I mean). On top of blogging and teaching, I've been writing and collaborating on originals. Talk about moving up in the world, right? I lost my job, yes but through the trials and tribulations I've faced so far, I've moved into doing the things I've actually been fantasizing about doing for the longest time. I've stopped asking if this is this all there is. Now, I'm just asking "What's next?"
Photo courtesy of Beverly Morata Grafton
In retrospect, the biggest lesson I've come to learn from this life experience is this, vulnerability is not a flaw; it can become a strength. It most certainly works as a deterrent of fair-weather friends and a connector for distant old besties. Now, what I'd like to inspire within my fellow musos, who decide to read this post, is that it's very easy to focus on the world that's crumbling around you but that's the last thing you should do. There isn't just one way to define self-worth. We are more than just the life of the party. We are more than the music we play and the audiences we entertain. There are so many facets to our talented selves. We must take that to heart and truly believe in it, for now is the perfect time to discover what else exists within us that will carry us into the next phase of our lives.