When I was in high school, I signed up for a jazz camp at the store where I took guitar lessons. My teacher had given me the info and I was pretty excited about it. I liked learning blues chords and the improv exercises we had done, so a day camp-type of environment would be cool. Plus, I could meet other musicians. I had always wanted to be part of a band and spent a lot of time day-dreaming about meeting my music kindred spirits, writing songs, and becoming superstars. I was pretty nervous the first day, but I clenched my jaw and carried my white Fender into the store as confidently as possible.
Everyone there was at least four years younger than me. Most of them knew each other. I was the only guitarist. During our lunch break, some of the kids talked about walking to Target and when I came back from the bathroom, I was met with an empty room and saw that “some” had turned into “everyone but me.” I knew it wasn’t because they were actively rejecting me. They just forgot I was there. Like I was invisible.
When my mom came to pick me up, she asked me how it went. I burst into tears.
All my life, it seems like I’m always starting things I don’t finish. Jazz camp, law/mock trial camp, track, voice lessons, guitar lessons…it takes a lot of guts to just walk into something new and most of the time, just doing something for a few days is enough. When I was younger, I would dread waking up for something and even more dread telling my parents I wanted to stop. I hated being thought of as a quitter. I hated losing the money spent paying for things a lot of kids never would get to do. I hated the emotional pattern I was developing of starting and stopping.
That’s probably why the thought of delaying school is so terrifying to me. That feeling of failure, of weakness, the fear of facing my parents, my husband, the world, and saying, “I can’t do it,” has been haunting me childhood. I hear the mantra chant of “good people don’t quit.” Protestant work ethic and the American way. Good people face challenges and push through the anxiety and fear, and they’re better of for it. I went to gymnastics, piano lessons, recitals, talent shows, plays, horseback riding camp, sports, German language camp, and I grit my teeth and pushed through everything I could because that’s what people are supposed to do. Except I never felt better. It never got easier. It’s gotten worse.
I don’t blame anyone. I don’t blame my parents. They were doing what parents do and most of the time, these were things that I wanted to do. I just couldn’t do it and that hurt everyone. It still hurts me. I know it’s not good to linger on the past, and I really don’t, but sometimes, one of the ghosts of a dream flutters in and I wonder what could have been if I had kept singing, if I had kept playing guitar, if I had played softball. It’s agonizingly difficult to not despise the people whose dreams come so easily to them. I know people who have the talent and the opportunity and they just waltz into whatever it is they’ve always wanted. Their brains aren’t rattling their bones with fear, their lungs aren’t deflating like slashed balloons, their blood isn’t freezing in their veins. They don’t know. They will never know. That is what is the hardest for me to accept right now.