Regrets?

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.

Laaaame-o.

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.

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An Unexpected Truth

Hey there 🙂 Remember me?

I know, I know.  I should have written this a while ago…. I do have good reasons (honest).

Right as the US portion of the tour ended and during my only 2 complete days off in Austin before starting the UK / Europe tour – I got sick.

Yes, it was bloody annoying.

Right now we’re a week or so into the UK tour and thankfully I’m feeling WAY better.  I’m still getting over the tail end of it….but other than the occasional coughing fit that makes me sound like I’ve contracted the plague, I’m doing ok.

That’s Reason No.1.

Reason No.2…..well, if I’m being honest….I’ve been avoiding you.  It’s nothing you’ve said or done, there’s a specific blog post I’ve been wanting to write – and I kinda knew it would be difficult.  But for what ever reason it’s important for me to get these words out of me and onto the screen.

So here goes……from the top.

Touring is fun.  Crazy, but fun.  Getting paid to travel around and play music night after night is such a privilege and I never take it for granted.  Not only is it a wonderful way to see the world, it also really helps you grow enormously as a musician.  After every show I feel as though I’ve learnt something new – especially as this is a genre of music I’ve not played a huge amount of (plus there is the small matter of playing an instrument I’d barely touched before this tour 😉 ).

But in between the music side of things, there is an awful lot of free time to do one thing I already do way too much of.

Think.

One situation in particular sparked a tidal wave of thoughts and emotions that I had zero control over.  I kept on trying to shut the flood gates, but once they were open I was forced to take a long hard look at what was going  on.  I honestly thought I had my shit together.  I really believed I’d worked through so many demons and my soul was clear of negative experiences from the past.

Apparently I was sooooooo wrong.

On the outskirts of New York, in a tiny little place called Hamilton we had a show at Colgate University.

No biggie.

Ahead of our show we got to check out the grounds and see all the facilities the place had to offer.

Again, not a big deal….in fact pretty cool by most people’s standards.

I found out very, very quickly that this was like hell on earth for me.

Within about 10mins of walking around the University grounds it was as if I had stepped into some kind of weird time warp where I was back being 14 again.

Awkward, angry, emotional, zitty, uncomfortable 14.

As 37 year old me walking around the grounds of Colgate University, I went past countless gaggles of super confident kids, all in their little groups of friends.  Smiling and laughing.  Making conversation.  Connected.

I can’t tell you how many times at school I sat totally alone watching all these groups of people interact with each other.

It was like watching everyone through a window.  I was present but not.

I’d sit there day after day trying my best to blend in and failing miserably.

I wasn’t cool.  I didn’t have anything in common with anyone.  I wanted to be a musician.  Everyone else wanted to be something far more conventional.  I had no idea what it felt like to fancy that boy who works in the local shop or that guy on that crappy TV show everyone’s into or the good looking one from that boy band.  I didn’t want to go out and be with the cool people because most of them were actually pretty uninteresting and the places they wanted to go were as lame and boring as they were.

But as inane as they were, they had something I didn’t.  Friends.  They were the cool kids.  Everyone liked them.  And at 14 being liked by the appropriate people is the ONLY thing that matters.

Then there were the teachers.  I was picked on by them too.  According to them I was lazy, stupid and didn’t care.  These days they call it dyslexia.

So all in all, there was absolutely nothing enjoyable for me about a school environment.  Every day was just a matter of survival.   Each morning I’d head straight for the gym changing rooms to sit quietly and brace myself for the day ahead.  A couple of mornings I stayed there longer than I should and was late for the first class.  One of my class mates told the teacher I was late because they’d seen me smoking round the back of the building (which clearly was a lie).  I got a detention.  No questions asked.  It happened all the time.  I honestly couldn’t do anything right and no-one gave a crap about how difficult it was for me just to set foot inside the school never mind get any work done.  If they didn’t know how I felt on the inside it was pretty obvious on the outside because I was self harming on a fairly regular basis.  It was ignored.

The thing is, as an adult if you don’t like something or someone – you have options.  You can walk away.  As a child / teenager if you don’t like school it’s tough shit.  And if you do walk away, they’ll hunt you down and take you straight back there whether you like it or not.

Since moving to the US I have had a few judgemental comments / dirty looks when I admit that I left school at 15 and I actually have no qualifications at all.

‘What? You’re a high school drop out? Why would you do that? Don’t you care??’ and so on and so forth.

It may also surprise some of you to know that Colgate was the first University campus in my 37 year existence to walk around.

I had no idea it would make me feel like bursting into tears, but when I stop and think about it – it’s kind of obvious that I wouldn’t feel that comfortable.

So what happened after I left school?

I started learning.  Strange but true.

At 15 I was playing various solo shows at a few rather seedy pubs around town.  By 17 I had taut myself to play bass guitar and drums, had recorded 2 albums and was playing music full time in 4 different bands as well as continuing my solo shizzle.  I learnt how to read and write considerably better than my school days – mainly because I had to write to venues and create posters for events.  I was also rehearsing (A LOT)…..7 hours a day to be exact.  I created my own schedule for practise and stuck to it religiously.

I also developed an even deeper understanding of nature and animals.  I regularly hand reared and rehabilitated sick and injured birds.  My wife’s favourite story she loves to tell people is that I helped a chicken recover from a serious stroke that left her not able to walk or feed herself properly – and within a short space of time I managed to get her almost totally back to normal.  It was pretty awesome.

Through all of these ups and downs in my life there have been a few things that have kept me sane.

Music being the major one.

And my amazing and patient parents being the other.

They have forever supported me wanting to do music and have never once tried to sway me from my path.  In fact they have always been so encouraging.  Over the years I subjected them to me learning various instruments (which must have been like some form of torture at times) along with being incredibly moody and unkind 90% of the time because I was so frustrated with life and couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.

But despite all this, there’s always been unconditional love by the bucket load thrown in my direction.  All they have ever expected of me is that I get up every day and do the best I can.

No expectation of good grades.  No desire for me to be some specialist doctor or high flying lawyer.  Just a good person who is being their true authentic self….something at times I took for granted.

I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for kids to not only have to contend with what I did in school but to also have parents who expected them to achieve.

I am incredibly lucky.

So I guess the conclusion that I’ve come to is that no matter how crappy things might be, thank God I don’t have to go to school every day.

And you know what? I’m totally fine being a high school drop-out musician.

It’s actually pretty amazing 🙂

Thanks as always for reading this far ❤ ❤

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