Podcast Ep. #15: Giving Up on a Dream

Today, I would like to talk about giving up on a dream. I don’t know why I want to talk about this so badly, but it’s something I really struggled with in my early to mid twenties, and I feel like it could be relevant for a lot of people. Let’s start this with a confession, of course. I was a writing major in college, but writing was actually my fallback plan. And I’m just going to stop right here and say if writing is your fallback career choice, you probably need to rethink your career plans. But don’t worry. It gets worse. My first dream, the dream that I carried with me for a long time, was that I wanted to be a singer/songwriter.

So, when I was a kid…Let’s go way back. When I was, I’d say, seven years old, I discovered that I loved watching singers perform on stage, and I loved studying how songs were put together. As soon as I got a new CD, I would pull the lyric sheet out and spend the entire evening lying on the living room carpet memorizing the lyrics and then trying to rearrange them or add my own words and phrases to them to create my own version of the songs. Eventually, I started writing my own songs, and by the time I graduated high school, I had about two hundred songs written. Not necessarily good songs since I wrote a lot of them in elementary and middle school, but nevertheless, this was something that I had poured a lot of my free time and energy and enthusiasm into. I had always been really encouraged about my singing at church. My dad’s a pastor, and at the time, I wanted to sing Christian pop music, so I wrote Christian music, and I even performed some of my songs at the small church that my dad pastored. And people would tell me all the time that they believed I would really be successful as a Christian artist, and they just couldn’t wait to hear my songs on the radio.

Looking back, I think these compliments had much more to do with my enthusiasm for singing, the type of audience I was hearing this from, and their concepts of faith and divine intervention. In any case, I didn’t have any clear understanding of my musical skill limitations until I started taking voice lessons in college. Which, arguably, if you just started taking your first ever voice lessons in college, you’re probably a little late to pursue a music career. Not saying it isn’t possible, but probably it’s a little more possible for someone more naturally skilled than I am. I have a chorus girl voice—it’s nice to hear in an ensemble, but it’s nothing mind-blowing. It’s a soft voice; it’s not built for pop music; it’s built more for classical music or ensemble pieces. Interpretation = I did not have the voice for the type of songs that I was writing or the type of music that I wanted to sing.

But I hate being told that I can’t do something, even if it’s logical, and this served me well at a lot of points in my life when I needed inner strength to get through difficult situations, but this also made it difficult for me to accept that I needed to figure out an alternate path. So, of course, I doubled down and decided to audition to be a voice minor after one year of voice lessons. I was terribly far behind where I needed to be in my technical skills, and this was demonstrated in my audition quite horribly. The kicker was that there was a guy I took voice lessons with who said he had never sung anything before his first year of college, but he had this beautiful operatic voice and perfect pitch, and he passed the audition, and I didn’t. He was a super sweet guy, and of course, I was happy for him, but that was just twisting the knife a bit. But it also woke me up. I had failed a lot of voice auditions before, but that one made me realize no matter how hard I worked, there were too many factors going against me for me to overcome them in time. At the end of the day, I was auditioning against people who had been studying voice since elementary school. I’d been studying since the second semester of my freshman year. I was making progress, but not fast enough. I was less pitchy, but I was still pitchy. I had better stage presence, but I still struggled to stay fully in character. I had been working so hard, but I wasn’t there yet, and the reality was I wouldn’t get there before the end of college.

Unfortunately, I’d also discovered through the process of taking lessons that even though I greatly enjoyed singing, it wasn’t something I wanted to be doing as much as I would need to be doing it to make it a career. There’s a huge difference in the amount of practice time between doing something as a hobby and doing something as a career. During college, I figured out that I can definitely write as a career; I can put in hours and hours and hours and hours of writing a week without stopping and never get tired of it. But with singing, I do get tired. I do want to do other things. It doesn’t consume my thoughts in the way that writing does. I can live without singing, but I can’t live without writing, and being able to see that contrast between my two passions really taught me a lot about myself. I also began struggling with my faith towards the end of college, and while I’m not an atheist by any means, I would say that I’m not, like, a party line-toting Christian anymore. Consequently, any songs that I’ve written in the past couple of years have been more personal and focused on general life stuff that anyone should relate to rather than being overtly religious in nature.

Now that I have some distance from all of these compounding realizations, I feel more at peace with them. But at the time, I felt like I was erasing part of myself. I felt like I was giving up, and that was really hard. But letting go of a dream doesn’t necessarily mean that you gave up. Sometimes, in life, you just figure out that things are wrong for you, and it’s not shameful to back away from those things when you do figure that out. There really is no shame in trying to be good at something. When you’re a teenager, I think it’s easy to assume that once you officially become an adult or once you graduate from school or once you get married or start a family that you will magically have everything figured out, and that’s not the case at all. But instead of viewing that as a bad thing, it’s more helpful to view it as part of your learning process. The process of learning about yourself and learning about the world.

So even if you’ve figured out that something isn’t working for you, at least you’ve figured that out, and you don’t need to waste more time on it. You can refocus your attention and energy. You can try something else. That’s basically what I’m doing right now. I’m just trying different things and seeing what sticks. At times, it does make me feel directionless compared to my friends or family members who, despite being my age or younger, already have so much of their lives invested in a particular direction. But, at other times, I feel like I’m more able to explore because I’m not so committed to being a certain thing yet, and that’s a freeing feeling. At least I know, whatever I did with my life, I did it myself. I didn’t let myself just get pushed into a little box and stay there because it was more comfortable being how people thought I should be.

I’m still figuring myself out right now, but I’ve been very, very, very blessed and fortunate to be able to figure myself out. To have time to explore what I want to do in my career. I do want to be a writer. That’s my dream, to actually make money off of my stuff one day. But I’m being very logical about it. I know that probably won’t happen for some years, so right now I’m just working on figuring out what I like to write and building up my writing skills. The nice thing about writing, as opposed to singing, is that there’s not really an age limit for it.

And in case you’re wondering, I do still have all of my lyrics, and I have a list of songs I want to make an EP of, and I have the title of the EP. I’m slowly learning my recording equipment right now, which is why I’m podcasting, and one day, I’m going to put out my own EP. I’m not expecting anything from it. I just want to do it because that was my dream for a long, long time, and if I can make it happen for myself, why not?

I actually think my songs are really good. I think my lyrics are good. Maybe I’m biased, but I’m just going to be biased and stubborn until I die.

So yeah, I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t despair if you feel like you’ve lost your way or you spent a lot of time on something that didn’t amount to much or didn’t have the outcome you thought it would. Life is about change and growth, and as long as you’re growing and changing, you are progressing. You might not know where you’re progressing to, but at least you’re not standing still. Standing still is the ultimate way to get nowhere.

I am somewhere right now. I don’t know where this place is or what it means exactly, but I am confident that being here is a sign that I still have something to offer the world and to offer to you guys. So thanks for listening.

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About Me

JodiMarie Meyer enjoys toeing the line between the mundane and the magical and exploring the dichotomies of good and evil; she primarily writes love stories, but not always. Definitely someone who got in trouble for daydreaming in class. Definitely someone who scribbles frantic story notes while stirring pasta. She makes her home in the Maryland countryside with her husband, dog, and rabbit. She is the author of one short story collection: magic/madness. Currently, she is writing her debut novel, Luc & Lila.