Why I gave up the Guaranteed Good for the Great Unknown
I have big news. I've decided to not return to a job in Tech. Instead, I'm going to pursue my life-long passion: music.
I've been writing and performing music in the San Francisco bay-area since I was 10 years old. That's 23 years of having music as a side project or a part-time job. On our year long trip around-the-world, I kept wondering, "What would happen if I dedicated all my time to music? What could I achieve?"
For those of you who don't know my backstory -- which, if you follow me on any social media platform, that would be hard to miss -- I'll give you a quick summary:
I've been working since 2006 in Corporate America. Five of those years were spent at Google, and 18 months were spent at Facebook. I've had a myriad of roles ranging from building brand awareness through social media and community management to designing full-scale international user and customer support. I've had the great honor of leading a team of 50 bright individuals and launching products that had never before been seen at Google, Facebook, and Juniper Networks.
When my husband and I got married, we decided we would spend one year traveling around the world. On April 3, 2017 we took our first (of many) flights on our journey to complete that dream.
While traveling, I had a lot of time to think. It's crazy what your mind will conjure up when you don't have work, or the gym, or social engagements, or whatever else it is we use to distract ourselves to fill up brain space. I spent the past year in deep introspection, trying to understand who I really am and what I really want. The reason why I say "really" is not to be emphatic. I say this because who I often think I am, or who I thought I was, is not always comprised of thoughts or convictions I have created myself. They are permutations of what I interpret society and media tells me are appropriate, or impressive, or desirable. They are derived from perceived expectations. Somehow, along the way, I fell victim to "I should" and that's nobody's fault but my own.
When Fear is a driving factor
When I talk with people about my music, sometimes I'll get the question, "did your parents not approve of your being a musician?" And that's the funny thing. My parents have been trying to convince me to pursue music full time since I was about 12 years old. By that age, I was being bullied and teased for being so weird. I used to wear Halloween and dance costumes to school on the regular and, as is typical for kids that age, my peers were pretty confused about me. I used to go home crying all the time after school because of being ridiculed. My parents wanted to take me out of public school and put me into a more music-focused school, but I was such a quirky kid already, I really wanted to be "normal" and try and fit in.
At age 15, I taught myself how to play guitar and I started writing songs and performing in front of my peers. My parents, again, encouraged me to go to a music and arts high school, but I was still hesitant of being 'weird' and I wanted to fit in.
I applied to 7 UC schools. ALL under the music program. I also applied to Berklee College of Music in Boston. I got in to all of them. I had dreamed for years of going to Berklee College of Music. I already had the collegiate sweatshirts. I was on craigslist looking at apartments in Boston and day dreaming about riding the T. But I didn't go. I chose UC Berkeley instead. And after I started at Cal, I changed my major from music to something else. Why?
Well, I said that the reason I chose Berkeley over Berklee was because I wanted to get a 'real education', something 'I could fall back on'. And, sure, that's a great "responsible" thing to say or choose. But, really now. All these years later, I call bullshit on myself.
The reason why I've been keeping music at arms length is because music is the thing I love most. My art is personal, honest, and raw. It is a space where I am the most vulnerable and that art is accessible to anyone who wants to listen, love, appreciate, celebrate, criticize, hate, scoff at -- you name it.
I wasn't strong enough to put myself out there and face rejection. I wasn't ready to try and face failure. But now, I am.
I'm ready to stop being so afraid. I'm ready to TRY and accept whatever comes of that trying. And even though I have set some very clear goals and objectives for myself, I have come to realize that no matter what the outcome is, it will not be a binary. It's not a win or lose, because journeys are so much more complex and compounded than just winning or losing.
What brings the Spark?
When getting-to-know my new employees, I'd often ask them what they're most passionate about. I'd ask, "what type of work gives your brain that certain spark -- a feeling nothing else can produce?" I'd use their answers to guide me when assigning them new tasks or when helping them gain perspective on what it was we were trying to accomplish. There is a unique formula that exists within us all which can stimulate and motivate. I kept asking what everyone else's Spark was, but I was doing everything I could to ignore mine.
And all this is not to say that I have been putting off music. Quite the contrary. I've held a monthly Queer Singer/Songwriter showcase at a club in San Francisco called Homophonic for 6 solid years. Every show me and my co-hosts would feature new Queer talent from across the Bay Area and the country and perform our own original content. I've recorded and released 3 EPs in the past 5 years. In addition to Homophonic, I would perform monthly shows around the Bay Area with a number of different bands. Music, outside of work, was my life.
I spent 5 years trying to find my footing at Google, and at the end of my time there I came to the realization that it just wasn't the right fit for me. I found my absolute dream job at Facebook and spent 18 of my happiest months working there. But still, nothing could compare to the feeling of being on stage and performing my music. Nothing.
Facebook has a saying, "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" Well, I have my answer.
There is no "should". There is only "I choose".
So, here I am. I am trying to shed my bad habits of telling myself I should do this, or I shouldn't do that. I am instead choosing to follow what my heart is telling me and make music my career. I am becoming active in my present and active in my future.
The catalyst for me realizing all this, and for actually following through with it, is because of my husband Tyler. I'm absolutely floored at the support and love he has given me. After my last show at Bottom of the Hill where I performed my EP 'Release The Ghost', he's been steadfast in saying, "when we come home from traveling, you're going to pursue music full time." He is constantly championing me to treat it like I've treated my desk jobs: design clear objectives, show up every day ready to do the work, and throw myself at it with everything I have.
I've been spending the past decade of my life regretting the fact that I didn't go to the music high school, or that I didn't major in music, or that I didn't do one thing or the other. But now, I am facing another chance to take that first step. I'm over regretting the things I haven't done. I want to get started! And, realistically, working in Corporate America for over a decade really hasn't hurt me. It's trained me on how to be a well-organized, driven, results-oriented person. Plus, as Tyler reminds me all the time, I had to go work in Corporate in order to fall madly in love with him. And he's OH-so-right!
What to expect.
I'm going to be promoting my music. A lot. I hope this is something that interests you and that you'll continue to support me by watching, commenting, and sharing! I always love hearing your feedback and it fills me with so much joy to interact with you around my art.
I'm going to be taking the next few months to write new music so that I can produce my first full-length album. I have been performing a lot of the same music for the last decade and it's time for my music to evolve. I sure have!
I have two music-based art projects I am going to be embarking on. I'll be posting about those in the coming month or so. I'm excited to do more theme-based projects which can involve both my creative community and my broader social sphere. On that note, I am looking to do as much artistic collaboration as possible. So please, if you have a creative idea you want another brain -- or voice -- on, please let me know! I'm especially interested in collaborating with and growing my community of female artists. The future is female, after all!
And last but not least, I'll be growing my technical skills by studying guitar, and piano, and theory as much as possible. Right now I'm using learning covers as a way to grow my skillset. Eventually, I'd like to have a multi-hour set of covers so I can be hired for weddings and events. If you hear a song you think I'd do a great cover of, send it on over!
I want to extend my deepest gratitude to all of you who have followed and supported my journey - wherever it may have been. I feel incredibly blessed to have so many people around me who provide feedback and support. I really cannot properly express how much it means to me.