Change of The Guard

Most of my life I have hid myself away. I dumbed myself down. I didn’t speak up. I cared more about saving face than speaking my truth. I said yes when I meant no. I avoided confrontation. I couldn’t handle the possibility someone didn’t like me. I did what I thought was acceptable or what was expected of me. I never asked for what I wanted. I didn’t even really know. I never took the time to ponder it. I looked to others to validate me. I let my own self limiting beliefs define me.  2018, I finally left all that behind me.
I am an empath. I am a healer. Since I can remember, I have been the confidant. Friends and family talk and I listen. Even strangers, children and animals always come to me for guidance, even if its just for help to find their mommy looking for them in a panic on aisle 5. The family doggo wants a belly rub at my feet. I feel and understand pain. I have held space for people to help them with their troubles. I had so many of my own, I had the ability to give the advice I wish I could take myself. I’ve seen and done it all. I’ve made mistakes and stumbled. Experience is the best teacher. We all need the space to fuck up without judgement.
I am an athlete. I am a golfer and quick swimmer. I won third in our district for women’s golf. I always placed at swimming meets. My long arms and broad shoulders gave me a powerful swing and mermaid ability. Yet, I didn’t win first place. Bronze wasn’t gold. Swimming never fully got off the ground. I was asthmatic and learned this at one of my first swim meets. I always started strong, but would eventually begin to wheeze. Instead of letting down my pride and excepting the need for the inhaler, I gave up. I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t enough. Practices and meets become too much of a burden. I eventually quit.
I am a creative. Music is in my blood. My grandfather was a saxophone player. My great grandfather a professional trumpet player. My mother played piano and did voice. I had formal piano lessons from age 8 to 11. One of my favorite sounds growing up was hearing my mother sit at our piano, playing Fur Elise. My heart danced with each tinkle of the keys. I wanted to make that kind of magic. I was in love with her triumphant grandoir and confidence when she’d grace that piano. Love seeped out my eyes when bellowed “Amazing Grace.” My mother arranged for formal piano lessons.
I learned to read music and was learning pieces from Fantasia when I quit. My piano teacher, a close friend of my mothers, saw a lot of potential in me. Like with any new skill, I made a lot of mistakes. Specific to piano, I had to practice a lot with tempo. I tended to want to speed up. She brought in a metronome to help me, but she would get frustrated. She would scream at me to the point of tears when I’d make repeated mistakes. I got to a point I couldn’t take it anymore and I quit. I regret it to this day.
At 13 I got a guitar for my birthday. My dad arranged for me to take lessons. Oddly enough, in that journey, I made a dear friend and mentor for many of my early adult years in my guitar teacher. I spent hours and hours in my room tinkering with it, blistering my fingers, tuning it and learning my favorite songs. I started eventually writing simple melodies and writing my own lyrics. I loved poetry and wrote several short stories. I have begun more novels than I care to admit. I have a propensity for starting and not finishing.
Anyway, I digress, I eventually started singing my own songs. My mother has a phenomenal singing voice, and I have a natural ability, but never had any formal coaching.
The manager of the music store where I took my guitar lessons adored me. He was so excited to see me every week. His name was Jeff. Jeff called me “Liza.” Every Wednesday afternoon, I’d cross the threshold of the store and he’d greet me, “Yo, Liza!” Eventually, one Wednesday, I told him about writing songs.
Without hesitation, Jeff pulled out a stool and asked me to play a song for him. I was nervous, but I felt a level of comfort with Jeff to share that part of myself. I started playing my song. A husband and wife walked in as I began, and watched my entire little diddy. The wife was impressed and asked me if I’d learn and play an Emmylou Harris song and my own music in a talent showcase they were organizing in Hohenwald, TN. Now, if you’ve ever ventured that far south of Nashville, its a small town-a blip on the map. It wasn’t a gig on Broadway, it wasn’t really anything, but it was a dream come true at 15. I can’t even tell you what I learned and played.  I had never heard Emmylou’s music before or had any connection to it. My love for folk and country western music came much later in life.
As I finished my set in Hohenwald, I sat down with my mother, granny and brother. All I remember was feeling shame.  I needed voice lessons. My songs didn’t really fit the genre. I wasn’t enough. Several of the other performers chatted with me afterwards and complemented me, but all I could hear was what was wrong. Where I failed. I never played again in front of other people. I tinkered with my guitar until I moved away the first time at 18. I have forgotten much of what I learned.
At 17, I was accepted into the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for Art Therapy. I remember reading that acceptance letter and feeling so overwhelmed with excitement, yet breathless. A prestigious art school thinks I’m good enough for them? They think I’m one of them? I felt a humble pride I never knew before. I qualified for a scholarship that would have covered my dorm expenses. Unlike many, I was extremely blessed in that my Dad, in all his practical and infinite wisdom, had saved to pay for me to go to college. I still would have had to take out loans.. With a very intimidated view of money and lack of understanding of finance and debt, I was scared of that reality. I let everyone in my life talk me out of going, because of the potential debt I would be in. I let fear guide me. Its the biggest regret of my life.
I am a “smarty pants.” My sophomore math teacher used to tease me as Id stay awake long enough to hear his lecture and quickly complete my homework before returning to my slumber. A 7:45 am class was brutal at that age. I always did well in school. So I did what was expected. I graduated with honors.
I earned a B.S. in  political science with an emphasis in legal studies. I went to law school. I graduated. Then, I failed the bar twice. I was lost, confused and heartbroken. How could I have worked so hard to fail? Am I not smart enough? Everyone will be so disappointed. Yet again, I was not enough. I took a job for the money, not for the love of it.
2017, I hit my rock bottom. I was tired. Tired of not being myself. Tired of not knowing what joy really felt like. I was disconnected from myself and my feelings. I was tired of being riddled with anxiety and depression. I was tired of trying to drown out it with substances, people, places and things. I was tired of feeling like a failure. I could not continue with life as I knew it. I had to change.
I began a journey that defined much of 2018. I started therapy. I acknowledged mental illness. I started talking. I got the answers to why it was so hard to focus. Why it was so hard to sit still. I learned to self soothe. I processed trauma and abuse I didn’t want to deal with. I spoke about my #metoo moments-one of which fully for the first time. I learned to see my inner and outer beauty. I learned self love and confidence. I accepted me. I stopped being so afraid.
Behind my smile, is someone who knows a lot of heartbreak. I am someone who has had to learn everything the hard way, which is the best way. It would not have made me.
2019 is a new beginning. I’m walking towards something I’ve never known before. I’m not without fear, but not crippled by it. Im so thankful to be here-to have a new perspective and second chance at life. I continue to be blessed in ways I never thought possible.
A new order has been ushered in- a changing of the guard.

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