Like many recent college graduates, I was hit with the fear of entering "real" life, where for the first time, I have to truly take responsibility for my life. Watching many of my friends accept job offers into the corporate world and quickly adapting to the next phase of their life, I am left to wonder, am I taking the "right" step? Is following my passion in music the "right" risk to take?
For anyone who has read my previous articles, you will know that I am a musician, a transgender woman who came from Hong Kong to study at New York City. Having just released my first big project declaring my pride in my identity, there was an equal mixture of fear and pride. The pride is in knowing that I have put out my best work, that I have left everything on the table and the fear is in the reception and feedback that I will receive. As an independent artist in NYC, you have to constantly put yourself out there, building connections and reaching out to various media outlets, bloggers, and celebrities. A running theme that dominated my mind was: "Who would pay attention to a nobody in college, who am I to think I can do this, that I deserve people's time, effort and resources?" Defining my success by the end results had inexplicably instilled a fear of failure in me, and that fear stood in the way of me achieving what I wanted to do. I became aware of the judgment that came from other people and myself while ignoring the praise and encouragement that came from those who loved and cared about my work. It became very hard for me to acknowledge the achievements that I did have, always thinking that it wasn't enough, which made it hard to continue doing what I loved.
The change didn't come until I learned to reframe how I viewed my work. I watched a commencement speech by Jim Carrey, in which he said: "You can fail at doing what you don't like, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love." I had to ask myself, does the end result, which includes accolades and praise, trump the process that brings me joy? Does it not count that I am striving to do my best, even when no one is noticing yet? It soon became clear to me that what mattered most was the effort I put forth in every moment and allowing the next step to unveil itself. And in doing so, I found solace in knowing that I did the best I could with what I know and that I showed up fully.
Stopping myself from projecting into the past or the future allowed me to remember that I loved what I do because I feel that through music, I am able to help build communities through an honest and vulnerable connection. I started to value the individual interactions that I have and the joy in performing for both big and small crowds. I treasured the heartwarming messages from parents of young trans kids and fellow trans-sisters telling me how much they loved my music and how comforting it was to know that they were not alone. I realized that I never had to do this alone, that there were people who do care and are rooting for me and they are the ones who mattered.
Slowing down to enjoy where I am right now allowed me to appreciate the joy that I have in my work. I now understand that no experience is wasted and failure is just an experience that if I allow myself to, I can grow and learn from. The intention that rules my life is the understanding that my work helps strengthen the connection I have with my community and the audience I get to perform in front of. So upon pondering my next step, I saw how I wanted to create a space where performance and community are merged. In the last Friday of August this year, I will be hosting and curating an event that features trans performers, ranging from spoken word poets, comedians, dancers and musicians. We will come together to raise money for a trans-related charity, at the same time celebrating the talent that exists within the community. Knowing that I am fortunate enough to take a chance at doing what I love is the fuel I will need going forward.