How a Story About Music Helped Me Get Through My Fears

The story that pushed me through my fears – Lost Songs: The New Basement Tapes

When people are being brave and (2)

I haven’t been blogging lately because of FEAR.  Fear of not having a perfect story, not writing to the right audience…

So I’m going to go out on a limb and just write what I have so far no matter how imperfect I think it sounds.

A story I discovered this past November has helped me (and is still helping me) get through a difficult change in my life.  Last June, I officially decided to leave my 16 year teaching career to find my next field of work, where I could be more creative while doing things that connected deeply with my values.  Teaching gave me these things in the beginning, but as time wore on, the bureaucracy and politics of schools became more intolerable, as well as dealing with people that went against my ethics.  I kept switching from school to school, thinking that I’d find a better environment and community to work in, but it never happened.  There was always something inside me that felt unfulfilled and dissatisfied.

I had already tried several times before to change careers and find a different path.  But every time I thought about leaving teaching, I talked myself out of it because of my fears.  Here are the top two that I obsessed about:

I was afraid of not having a consistent paycheck and health care.  My belief was that if I left my stable teaching job, I’d become destitute and unable to survive.  It felt utterly impossible to change careers.

These were thoughts going through my mind and still pop up from time to time:  What if I failed at finding work that I enjoyed and could pay the bills? What if I had to come back to teaching after all the effort of searching for a new career?  In my eyes I would’ve been wasting valuable money and energy.

So even though I knew I was burned out by my workaholic tendencies and the increasing blame of societal problems heaved onto teachers’ shoulders, I stayed with it.  I thought I could balance myself better and deal with all the disagreeable policies being placed at teachers’ feet.

It didn’t work.  I wanted more passion and creativity and wasn’t finding it in teaching anymore.

This time I’m fully committing myself to leave teaching and  see this journey through.  I’ll do whatever it takes to seek out this creative purpose I feel inside of me.

However, traveling on a completely new path in my life where the plan and outcome are unclear brings up tidal waves of fear for me.  I’ve been trying to go with the flow and see where the waters take me, but the constant uncertainty causes incredible anxiety.   This entire process goes completely against how I was brought up and how I naturally operate.

Everything I’m doing is new, so it’s hard not to feel scared in this whole process.  What it really boils down to is how I hate being a beginner in anything I do.  My confidence plummets because I’m so afraid to not be good enough.

One day last November my fears were welling up higher than usual and became so unbearable that I was too paralyzed to take action.   As I was resenting these feelings I came into a heavy thought:

“When people are being brave and confident, insecurities and fear are often right next to them as they do it.”

And then I suddenly realized that this reminded me of the documentary that had just premiered on HBO called Lost Songs:  The New Basement Tapes Continued.   Famous musicians Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens, Taylor Goldsmith, Jim James, and Marcus Mumford came together for the first time to write new music to Bob Dylan’s never before seen lyrics from 1964.  They had to do this in two weeks and it was wonderful to get a glimpse of their own fears while making incredible music.  Watching them work through their creative process helped hammer my thought home about how fear and bravery sit in the same room.

It was especially inspiring to watch Rhiannon and Marcus show their vulnerabilities and fears so openly, and then compose such moving music.  Rhiannon is the co-founder and amazing vocalist, musician and songwriter of critically acclaimed band The Carolina Chocolate Drops.  Even with these accomplishments, she still had to work through her own insecurities of being a “baby songwriter” among the more experienced musicians in the group.  Although she felt this way, she was still able to be persistent and compose one of the best songs on the album – it’s such a beautifully haunting song.  Here’s Lost on the River:

I especially related to how she described her creative process:  “Each song I put every ounce and heart and everything into it.”  The same goes for me in terms of every creative act I do, including every blog entry I write!

Similarly, Marcus Mumford, who’s won a Grammy with his band Mumford and Sons, shared how he feels insecure all the time when he’s creating, that maybe it comes with the territory of being artistic.

Marcus Mumford pondered about how being insecure just comes with the territory of being artistic.


Here’s a clip that gives you an idea of this.:

This idea of fear and bravery going hand in hand, fear sitting right next to me as I’m being brave in all my ventures really blew me away.  I always thought that once you’re brave that fear will go away and everything will be right in the world.  No more bad feelings ever.  Unfortunately, this isn’t true, but as much as I hate feeling insecure, hearing how famous creative people struggle and be human made me realize this is just part of the landscape in which I have to learn to live.  It encouraged me immensely!  Now, every time I start feeling afraid and crippled by it, I come back to these brilliant examples to help me get through my fears.

You must watch this!



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