Nothing heals us like letting people know our scariest parts: When people listen to you cry and lament, and look at you with love, it’s like they are holding the baby of you.
Even though everyone’s sharing everything online these days, it still seems to me like there’s not a lot of open talk about our challenges, struggles, mental health, and internal experiences. In classical music, people are speaking out about their experiences with nerves and performance pressure with a little more openness than 10-20 years ago (like in the “Composed” documentary). But talking about mental health and wellness is still something that’s hidden, much as it is in sports, although, very recently, this seems to be slowly changing–consider the conversations around star athletes like Naomi Osaka, Simone Biles, Kevin Love, and Michael Phelps.
I get why people don’t want to talk about mental health–not only is it really hard to be vulnerable about our darkest feelings and thoughts, it’s especially risky to do this in a culture that prioritizes perfection and achievement. Early in my music career, I remember that when I tried to talk to my teachers, coaches, and managers about my negative self-talk, my worries about the future, my despair about never feeling good enough, they’d look at me like I’d grown a third head. Just practice, they’d say, or I don’t know what to tell you or you’re doing fine, don’t worry so much.
While I don’t blame folks for being uncomfortable, this makes it really hard to be vulnerable. For me, this often leads me to isolation, bottling up my emotions and thoughts, and feeling deeply, deeply alone. But the fact that discussing mental health issues makes us uncomfortable is the very reason I think it’s important to talk about them. What kind of culture allows us to thrive? One of intense perfectionism and relentlessly critical judgment or one of excellence and balance and, dare I say it, joy?
Believe me, after thirty years in a culture that prioritizes achievement at all costs, I’m highly skeptical about the merits of wellness.
There’s a very rigid part of me that believes that being gentle is straight loser B.S. and that self-compassion is a dirty word. But this is why I need to do something different. Until now, I’ve curated this blog to make things look polished and easy. In the coming posts, I’m going to try being more open about my struggles because that is also why I’m here in Korea on this Fulbright grant: to write about loneliness and not belonging.
Courage is often a hard choice.
This is a big leap for me but I’m just going to go for it and see how it goes. I hope you will take the leap with me, so we can build community and connection, together. In the coming blog posts, you can expect some tips on how I manage my anxiety, ways to unstuck your creativity, and what it’s like for me to be far from home during these uncertain times and how that affects my mental health.
Next week, I want to talk about fear and how it affects us.
I recently asked a few of my friends what they would do if they weren’t afraid and next week I’ll share what they had to say as well as my own experiences with fear around performing and trying new things. I hope you’ll come back and check it out.
Until then, be well, stay safe, and thank you for reading!