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How It All Started


13 years after graduating with my doctorate, I climbed into my car after teaching at 1 of 3 adjunct positions and burst into tears. It was the first day back after summer break, and the burnout from the previous semester was still coursing through my body. Why did I feel this way? What was happening? This was the beginning of change for me. I was starting to see clearly for the first time. To understand why I wasn’t seeing clearly before, here’s a short history of my journey.

“What do you want to do with your life,” they all asked. Every time I heard this statement my heart sank lower into my body. For everyone except my flute teacher, “I don’t know yet,” seemed a fine answer. Music had been such a HUGE part of my life since I was in Elementary school. I’d gone to summer camps, performed in honors bands, received medals at solo and ensemble festivals, and I was even featured as a soloist with my high school band. Everyone, except me, assumed that I’d go into music. But I couldn’t SEE it! I was 18. I couldn’t see anything about my life.

Although I had been accepted and was excited about attending a somewhat competitive Liberal Arts program, my mentors managed to convince me that maybe I should try going into music first. If after a year I decided it wasn't for me, I could always easily transfer to a different major.

In fact, they bargained, it’s a lot easier to transfer to anything else than it is to come back to music if you realized later that you missed it. That was a point that stuck with me.

I did audition and get into a music school. My "trial" ended 9 years later when graduated with a DMA in Music Performance.

Despite the degrees, the performance experiences, and all the mentorship that went into my training, I was still unable to SEE where my life was headed. Could I see myself playing in an orchestra full time? No. Teaching full time? No. Doing a combination? Maybe? Throughout my time in college, I was riddled with doubt. Was this the right path for me? Everyone else seemed so sure it was right for them. I’d spent so much time at it, clearly it’s what I should be doing! With each degree, I thought the doubt would soften and eventually disappear and that I would begin to clearly see what I wanted in life. Wait...what DID I want?

When I found myself bawling in the car in between adjunct teaching jobs, 13 years into my career, I realized that I had never asked myself that question. What do I want? I began to sense that throughout my college years, every time I muttered silent doubts to myself about my career choice, the question “what do I want” was there, but it was only a whisper. As the years went by, that whisper grew to an “indoor” voice and eventually gave way to an “outdoor” yell. And in the car that day, that question, “WHAT DO I WANT,” was screaming so loud it resounded inside every cell of my body. My answer?

“I don’t know.”

It was the same answer my 18-year-old self had given to so many people. Of course at 18, that answer is somehow more quaint than it is for someone in her 40s. But I knew one thing. My life had to change, and I needed to create the space to think, to feel, and to discover what I truly wanted in my life. Ultimately, I used my time and space to ask myself over and over “what do I want to do,” and gradually, answers started coming. With time, I had to grapple with the fact that self-doubt was something I had danced with, awkwardly, for my entire young adult life. I could see clearly how my self-doubt had held me back. And I could see that I had taken directions from my fear of what other people would "think" of me if I _________ (fill in the blank with all manner of scenarios). That's not the direction I wanted to go anymore.

As I near the completion of my Life Coach training, I see so clearly now that my 18-year old self had not gotten clarity in her beliefs, values, or sense of self. Better late than never! I'm seeing so clearly now, and although my own gremlins of self-doubt may visit from time to time, I have a vision for myself that's able to respond with, "I know what I want!"


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Michigan, USA

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©2020 BY TESS ANISSA MILLER