Folks don’t even realize this, but I used to be a musician. In fact, when I was a girl growing up just about all I did was music. I drove my school teachers crazy because I refused to do my other school work.
I remember the lectures back then. “If you don’t….” and then, all kinds of scare tactics about “career” and “college” that didn’t apply really. See, the truth was that after we girls got to a certain age, no matter what, most all of us got pushed into marriage anyway, whether we wanted that or not. So what on earth was the point of studying if this thing “income” was going to be “husband’s income” for most of us? What was this thing “career” if most of the girls were going to end up appendages to some man?
I had no clue that I would succeed at refusing to fall prey to the coercion. I knew I could TRY to refuse, but would I succeed in weaseling my way out of it? Was there a pathway, some secret tunnel, or would I get stuck in some marriage I didn’t want? What could I do?
I saw these girls falling for it, one by one. To me, marriage looked like slavery. Period. I couldn’t comprehend it any other way. I knew my mom wasn’t slave to my dad, because you couldn’t enslave my mom (it was NOT possible to enslave a dancer, was it?) but I also saw my parents as the “Big Exception” some Other World that I’d never find for myself. They were another generation. Other people. I was not them, I was ME. Different. Girls my age ended up slaves. I didn’t see any positive role models of marriage who were my own age. So I figured all that was not for me.
So the “you HAVE get good grades” was totally irrelevant as far as I was concerned. I did music for the love of it as much as I wanted. When I got to college I got to do music all the time as a music major, and that opened a whole new world for me. “Hey, I LOVE studying and practicing!” Why? Because it was fun. I had a blast at it. I kept doing it. I was good at it. I remember having so many fun times, getting along with others, playing duets late at night, all the rehearsals, long hours in practice rooms, so many concerts, church gigs, laughter, joking around about stuff only musicians understand, losing my sheet music at the last minute and then, finding it again (phew!), opening my trumpet case at the beginning of the rehearsal only to find out my mouthpiece is MISSING….(every trumpet player’s nightmare…) valve oil leaking on my clothes, the jokes about it afterward, the borrowed spare mouthpiece (thank you!), passing around valve oil to guy who always forgot his, my pal who always showed up stoned to rehearsals but never missed a single note….
I remember it was always the same person who did the audio recordings for us. Presto! Like magic, each and every one. What fancy equipment we had back then, microphones, speakers…all that now replaced by 21st Century techno wizardry beyond anything we could have possibly dreamed of back then.
In 1981, which was decades ago, when I was 23 years old, I stopped doing music entirely. Stopped dead cold. All that gone. Stolen. Poof!
I look back and feel sorry for my parents, who wondered what the heck happened. Gone? Over? Just like that?
It’s hard to believe that all my high school teachers couldn’t convince me to just do a little less music and a little more “homework,” but PSYCHIATRY was so, so powerful that it stopped my music entirely. Killed it.
Really? Did that really happen?
Do you recall the story of that Princess who ate a poison apple? She didn’t quite eat it, because it got stuck. Yeah, I know that’s gross, but we kids put up with a lot of grossness when we were little, didn’t we? That apple sat in her throat for how long? A hundred years! She wasn’t dead. She was sleeping. Only sleeping.
That is what happened to my music. Psychiatry only thought they killed my music, but they didn’t! They failed! They fail at everything! My music’s been asleep, that’s all. For a while.
You might wonder why I am writing this silly story. Why I am making up this Sleeping Beauty stuff and changing it around to be a story about “career” and “psychiatry.” I’m doing this to encourage anyone out there.
If you think your life was squashed by someone or something, destroyed halfway, interrupted maybe, or waylaid…think again. Maybe it was. I sure called mine “stolen” for a long time.
For a long time I wondered about all those years that I studied music and I wondered how on earth I could bring back that part of my life. Lately, though, I’ve been realizing I’m already bringing it back. Living it.
I took up writing after ECT (Electroshock) because writing had sustained me after the damages caused by the shock. Writing had helped me survive the shock, and helped me survive the coverup that the doctors and their institution tried to pull on me. Then I managed to earn my degrees.
What I found out, especially in graduate school, is that I love reading for an audience. There aren’t too many courses for writers that teach writers how to get up and perform! Many writers dread that part. Thankfully, I took to it naturally because of my musical background. After grad school, I sought out coffeehouses and other venues where I could read aloud.
Lately, I’ve enjoyed public speaking. I discovered I am really good at it. Public speaking is almost like a cross between reading aloud and acting. I am never at a loss for subject matter these days. I find that I can bring together all my musical knowledge and everything I learned in writing school, too, and all my life experiences as “patient” and to pull off a truly stellar presentation.
Psychiatry didn’t kill anything. No way. Hey, the kid is back! What happened after Sleeping Beauty woke up, anyway? Weren’t there some Dwarves involved? Seven? Or twelve? Wait a minute, I’m kinda short myself, so maybe I should just run off with them instead and have a party. My dog Puzzle too. Only she gets liver instead of cake.