When I first started out on my journey as a pro muso (*cough *cough years ago) someone shared a well known saying with me, which went something along the lines of as long as you have your art, nothing else matters. More than a handful of occasions in my lifetime I have looked back on this particular saying and thought to myself ‘what a total bunch of hippy-dippy crap‘. These were usually moments when I didn’t have enough money to pay for the petrol I had just put into my car, or when my debit card had been declined at the grocery store checkout, or when I got late fees because bills went out of my account and I didn’t have enough funds to cover them, yadda yadda yadda. At that time I thought whoever said those stupid words had zero idea what it was like to suffer for your art. It did really feel like a terrible curse and that living like any other normal-non-arty-human-being would’ve been SO much easier.
In a similar vein, I read an article years ago about an art teacher who greeted his students at their very first class with ‘some of you will have the misfortune of becoming artists‘. Depressing, but kinda true.
You may well be wondering where I’m going with all this.
Well, I got a question for ya.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if, knowing what you know now, you were able to travel back in time and re-do your life again? Is there anything you’d do differently? What If you could go back and meet a much younger version of yourself? What would you say?
From time to time I do ponder this very question and the answer always comes back no, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m happy and grateful I chose this path. Now that I’m older, I understand that the struggle itself is a gift. I’m a stronger, more resilient person because of it. Those words that I used to resent so much now make perfect sense. These days my life is considerably easier, but through all the awful hardship and embarrassing lack of funds, it was art that got me through. Music kept me on the straight and narrow and it really is a blessing to know without any doubt whatsoever who you are meant to be. Over the years people and places would change, but music was and will always be there when ever I need it. It’s a beautiful thing.
Just lately though, I have been thinking a lot about my life over the past 38 years. Recently I asked myself that same question – do I have any regrets? As mentioned earlier, my answer is usually no.
But this time I hesitated. Actually, there are a few things I would change, or if I was able to travel back in time and meet much younger Katie Marie I’d love to tell her a thing or two.
A couple of weeks ago I had a really interesting conversation with one of my students. She’s young. Just 14 years old, and like me at 14, she knows everything about everything. We got talking about how things have changed over the years with technology and music and I began a sentence with words I never thought I’d use –
When I was your age….
Oh Lordy. It’s official. I’m an old fart.
After our lesson I really thought a lot about those 5 words…when I was your age. I reflected on when I was a teenager. What I thought about, how I felt, how I acted. And because of this, my answer to the ‘would I change anything’ question has changed.
I think it’s pretty safe to assume that most people know I bat for the other team. Now, I don’t go about waving flags or making a big song and dance about it – because to be honest, in every day situations I don’t consider it to be of great importance. That being said, I am very open about it and would never dream of pretending to be something I’m not in order to make someone else feel more comfortable.
Quite frankly, that’s just dumb.
From an early age, my parents drummed into both me and my brother: Be Your True Authentic Selves. DO NOT follow the herd. They have always encouraged us to follow our hearts and do what ever makes us happy, without any expectations. Both my parents loved that I was super into music and have always supported me wanting to be a musician.
Along with being into creative stuff, from an early age I knew that I was different and I also had a very clear idea about what I liked and didn’t like. I loved music. I adored being close to trees and nature, to the point that as a 4 / 5 year old I would get up in the middle of a lesson and either head to the piano in another classroom or go outside and sit by some trees. I’d be invited by my class mates to birthday parties and all the other children would be obediently sat around playing games and interacting with each other. ‘Where’s Katie?’ would be a question often asked by the adults, at which point they’d go looking for me and more often than not find me somewhere on my own, either looking at a book, sitting next to an animal of some description or (if there was one available) playing a musical instrument. I found groups of people drained my energy. I was happier in my own company surrounded by animals or inanimate objects. They were peaceful and calming to me.
My parents (thank God) never tried to change me and just accepted me the way I am. They didn’t ever say things like ‘you must interact and socialise with the other children more Katie’, quite the opposite, they encouraged me to be myself and made it very clear that being unique and different is most definitely a good thing. If I didn’t want to hang out with the other kids and wanted to talk to a cow in the next field, then so be it.
I had this loving, kind and extremely accepting energy from my parents – and yet the moment I turned into a teenager *everything* became complicated.
At 14 years old I did NOT think that being unique was a good thing at all. I was different and it was a total pain in the bottom.
I wanted to be like everyone else. But no matter how hard I tried (and I really did try) I just couldn’t do it. At school the teachers attempted to squeeze every ounce of individuality out of each and every child and push them into the same shaped hole as everyone else. All the other kids went along without a lot of resistance. They accepted being herded into the sheep pen and told that your life will be exactly the same as everyone else’s.
Those teachers taught me that when you get older you get married to someone of the opposite sex, have a fancy job (which isn’t necessarily something that makes you happy, but it does make a butt load of money and impress others), buy a house, have kids, watch them have children and then retire.
Which is totally fine, if that’s what floats your boat and makes you happy. The problem for me is that’s what every one *else* does. And in my school if you didn’t want the above and wanted something different, something outside of the realms of what was presented by those people – you were considered an outcast, a waste of space and someone destined to amount to very little.
I remember meeting with multiple ‘careers advisors’ and teachers who were supposed to help us decide what jobs we were going to work towards. When I told them I wanted to be a musician, each and every one of them replied straight away with ‘that’s NOT a profession, you have to pick something else’. ‘But that’s what I want to do with my life, isn’t it my choice?’ I would ask. After refusing to change my carear choice I ended up getting a detention for being disrespectful to my teachers.
I know, talk about things that make you go hmmmmm?
The problem that these people refused to acknowledge or recognise, was that I’m not meant to follow the herd, have a regular job and do regular people things. I’m an arty sort, something I’ve known my whole life. But my school teachers were hell-bent on spending their days slowly but surely trying to mould me into something I wasn’t.
There was also a very heavy assumption from both school and society in general that:
- I would *want* to get absolutely wasted on what ever liquor or substance I could get my hands on
- I’d *choose* to stay out late and hang out in crappy nightclubs listening to shitty music at an annoyingly loud volume while at the same time oogling at dirty-smelly boys
- And worse than both of those things put together – it was a given that I would be attracted these dirty-smelly dudes and want to sleep with them
So when none of the above was of interest to me at all I seriously thought something was wrong with me.
You have to remember – this was pre-internet and Google. Back then the only way to have questions answered was by writing a letter to the Agony Aunt column in Bliss Magazine and hoping they’d select your question. This was (of course) highly unlikely as hundreds of confused and needy girls would write letters to Bliss about boys and va-jay-jays every single week. Also, living in a small rural town in Devon, there wasn’t exactly an eclectic mix of people to hang out with and there was certainly no mention of there being any alternative ways of living. My heart knew what I wanted and needed, but day after day, month after month, year after year, I chose to ignore what it was telling me and did the complete opposite, just to fit in.
I would tell myself, surely if I do all these things over and over at some point it will feel normal??
Rather unsurprisingly, it never did.
My heart repeatedly told me:
I love staying up late and working on new songs or learning covers by my favourite artists and bands.
I am most at peace when I am around animals and nature.
Playing music makes me very happy.
Drinking and doing drugs in public places makes me feel very uneasy.
I am not attracted to dudes. Not at all. And that’s totally ok.
It told me this over and over again. At first quietly, then the further I moved away from my true self it got louder and louder. I kept ignoring it. I kept telling myself that because I’m not like other people something was WRONG.
Which of course, is ridiculous. I know that now, decades later. But back then I wasn’t brave or kind enough to know that outside approval is most definitely not needed and that you should always follow your heart. It knows the way. Always.
So – to answer my original question, my only regret, the one and only thing I’d change, is that I wish I could’ve been kinder to me and been true to myself.
I would love to go back in time and meet me at 14 and say ‘you know what KM, it doesn’t feel right because it ISN’T right! And that’s totally ok. You aren’t meant to follow others. You are unique and that’s a gift! You were meant to march to a different drum beat – everyone’s in 4/4 and you’re marching to some kind of super hip 7/8 beat where the accent changes with each measure (*sorry, nerdy music talk)’
At the time, external validation was SO important. I needed ‘insert name of popular person here’ to like me and think I was cool. Why can’t I think I’m cool and that be enough? Because I was 14 and figuring shit out and stupid unimportant things like that matter to you at that age.
So that’s my story. What about you? Do you have any regrets? Anything you’d change if you could? What would you tell a younger version of you?
Thanks as always for reading this far ❤ You are a legend.