Growing up, many of my classmates and peers from church would go to Mallorca or The Canary Islands* or Crete for one or two weeks of sunshine, food, playing in the pool, and relaxation during the summer break. My family never did. It's not that I felt like I missed out, I got to do way cooler things when I was out of school. It was that it made me different.
My faith also made me different. Denmark is a Christian country, they even have a protestant state religion. But most Danes feel like talking about religion is "way too personal". The standard reply to "do you believe in God?" would sound something like this: "Well... I believe there's something more between heaven and earth than I can see." And that's about all they want to say about it. I heard it many times.
My religion was different. It was all about preaching the good word of the Lord. Once again I felt different.
My brazen outgoingness also made me stand apart from my peers. In a world of adolescents, pre-teens, and teens, who made it cool to be shy, who made awkwardness seem better than confidence, I learned to hide that part of me. They did so, of course, by bullying. Anyone different, yet trying to fit in would get their fair share of teasing, ridicule and questions asked simply to provoke. Not respected for being different, not accepted when trying to fit in, I simply hid.
It's no wonder that I spent most of my later teens and early adulthood in each of the extremes: trying to stand out even more (but not in a good way) or trying to be as normal as possible.
First, in my later teens, I fell in with a crowd from church who all wanted to be as different as possible. But not in the way that I was different. My outgoingness and confidence were not desired qualities in this crowd. Rather it was a strange combination of rebels and good girls/boys. All were "good Christians" but somehow we also all wanted to take things to the very edge of what was deemed acceptable in the church. We would dress differently, listen to some obscure and wild music and dance weirdly at parties. Think Bjork, with a touch of Green Day. I learned to like this music, not because I chose it, but because it was "cool", eccentric and weird. Although this crowd did eventually lead me to Barcelona and to leaving that church, both amazing experiences, it was just trying on another kind of different. One that also didn't fit.
Once returned from Barcelona (a story for another episode) I was done being "different". Since that hadn't really worked for me I thought it was time to squeeze myself into that box called "normal", the one that seemed to make everyone else around me so content. Unburdened by belonging to a religion I was now free to take on the Danish normal. The one where I didn't have to talk about religion because it's considered a private matter. Where life was about dating, having a good job, having friends to party with, and talking to your girlfriends in not so low voices at Sunday's brunch about this weekend's escapades. Basically, living in an episode of "Sex in the City". In this time I did make some healthy discoveries. I made great strides in learning about my own opinions. Those that had been so ruthlessly driven by the church were now mine to figure out. I would find myself in conversation not saying a word because I didn't know how I felt about the given topic. Was this my opinion or the church's? It was good and healthy for me to have time to figure this out for myself.
But I was anything BUT healthy. I battled with what was "ok" and what wasn't. I ate and drank away my feelings and spent way too much time watching TV. But that's "normal" isn't it? I guess I had yet to figure out that normal and healthy are not always the same thing. It was a downward spiral of unfulfillment, increasing insecurity, feeling wrong and out of place. Because of course, I didn't belong in the box I was trying to fit in. I got more and more self-critical. This wasn't working! Why wasn't this working? There must be something wrong with me.
Enter a terrible emotionally abusive relationship that further gave me proof that I indeed was wrong, I was broken. I doubted myself so much that I gave my power away and shriveled into a shadow of myself. One that this so-called partner could prey on until there was nothing left. My wakeup call was when it turned physically violent. It jolted me out of my snooze box. I left immediately and I have never seen his face again. Slowly but surely I started finding myself again. I found people who didn't seem to care that I was different. In fact, they loved it about me. Therapy was a huge help, my therapist helped me realize what healthy was. To heck with normal, to heck with different. I learned to ask "who am I?" and "what's right for me?" rather than try and fit into anyone else's world.
From here I finally moved forward. But not before the world around me burned. My family did not understand this new me. I had a nervous breakdown and lost my stressful sales job. I was an exposed raw nerve-ending in a life I had never wanted to live in the first place. This lead me to a new career path and to India where like so many others I found clarity and well, myself. To be continued...
In Denmark, we have a concept called "Janteloven" or more often translated as "The Law of Jante". If you say "Janteloven" to any Dane, they will immediately know what you are referring to. And most of us have felt the influence of this "law" during our life in Denmark.
What is this "Law of Jante" you ask? And why on earth am I bringing it up in one of my blog posts as part of my story?
"The Law of Jante" was first introduced in 1935 by author Aksel Sandemose in his novel "A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks" (footnote: I also saw a translation that said "A Fugitive Covers His Tracks" which not as accurate as the former.) In it, he describes the lead character Espen Arnakke's experiences living in the small provincial town of Jante. In this town, the inhabitants have kept each other down, generation after generation, with envy and narrow-mindedness. It is these unwritten rules that Sandemose has translated into the ten commandments in the "Jantelaw". They are:
Sandemose spells out exactly how the city operates and how the inhabitants think. The city's self-suppressing lower class and the petty-bourgeois who want to be so better-than-thou, teach their children inferiority and distrust of the outside world from a young age, all to make themselves feel better.
It does come across rather two-sided. On one hand, this community is suppressing their peers with these 10 commandments, yet at the same time, them saying "don't think you're better than us" is expressing exactly that they indeed think they are. I enjoyed this conundrum immensely.
The thing I do love about the story, which is not an easy read or even all that enjoyable, is that the lead character finally does muster up his courage to break out and sail the seas, something that in my experience doesn't come easy when met with this kind of deprecating forced inferiority.
I do think Sandemose was making a rather flamboyant sarcastic attempt at showing the small towns in Denmark just how silly this whole concept is, but I think his point fell to the wayside and the concept was adopted. He finally put into words what was already there.
So why does this book belong in my story? Well, growing up in Denmark, this book has made its impact. I don't think the Law of Jante came from a book, I think the Danish community saw itself in these commandments and thought: "yes, that's exactly who we are and what we do". I think of Aksel Sandemose as someone who put into words something we all were seeing and feeling around us, and this whole concept was then made famous as "The Law of Jante". It belongs in my story because this written, yet unwritten law has been an interwoven part of my culture for as long as I can remember and has been there, well-enforced for generations.
I'm sure you can imagine what happens to a little girl, with a big voice and wilder than wildest dreams when she is presented with 10 commandments like this and told, this is a part of your culture. Not only that, but I felt the spirit of these writings intertwine in my daily life, I saw it when I was told not to shine too bright. When I was proud of an achievement, I saw it. If I ever felt like I was going to do something special, I felt it.
I don't think this concept is reserved for the Scandinavians, I believe it is a small town syndrome. I have seen many examples of trying to explain this type of "community culture". One is "Crab mentality" or "Crabs in a bucket syndrome". The urban dictionary describes it as:
"When a single crab is put into a lidless bucket, they surely can and will escape. However, when more than one shares a bucket, none can get out. If one crab elevates themself above all, the others will grab this crab and drag'em back down to share the mutual fate of the rest of the group. Crab bucket syndrome is often used to describe social situations where one person is trying to better themself and others in the community attempt to pull them back down."
This is exactly what the Law of Jante is for me. I am sure many communities have their version of this behavior, we are pack animals and this fear of falling out of the norm did once upon a time mean literal life or death. I'm sure the crabs are just trying to keep each other safe! But when we use this kind of fear against each other to hold each other down, there's a problem. Then it is no longer beneficial. Especially in a time where there is no need for this kind of conditioning.
I do think there is one key difference to the Scandinavian version of "Crabmentality". In Denmark, we owned it. Almost to the point of being proud of it, as something that was innately Danish, that made us who we are. It was never presented as a bad thing, just something we had or even worse something we were. Like a little guideline for how to act in society once we were all grown up.
To some, it may not make a difference one way or the other. But to me, it was devastating. Every time I wanted to sing or step on a stage, every time I excelled at anything, every time, I would be discouraged and feel like I was making everyone else look bad, embarrassed or mad. Here's another kicker: as a person who moved to the US there will still be people who think I am badmouthing Denmark or being disloyal to my roots. I mean in no way to be disrespectful.
Here's the way I see it: if the Law of Jante never made you feel the way it made me feel, then you're good! Denmark is the place for you. Have fun and live out your wonderful life. Just don't let other people tell you how bright to shine or how far to reach. I did what was right for me. Only YOU know what is right for you.
Here is the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Fugitive-Covers-His-Tracks-ebook/dp/B07F8Z62RV
Side note: I planned to re-read the book in Danish when all this crazy quarantine stuff set in. Since it will be a while before the book can get here from Denmark I had to settle for the translated English version.
This blog post is also available on my new podcast "Packing a Punch" - listen on your favorite podcast player!
My story is not ordinary. I feel pretty ordinary, on the inside. But when I tell people where I come from and how I got here, it usually stirs up a gasp or two. My official story simply states that I grew up in Denmark and now live in the Pacific Northwest, but there is much more to it than that. So I decided to tell it.
My childhood was spent divided on three different continents. Strangest of all, I was born in South America. Valdivia, Chile to be exact. My parents were missionaries, but soon after my arrival, they decided to move back to the US. I was 6 months old. Needless to say, I don't remember anything from Chile at all. I ended up with dual citizenship - but not a Chilean one, as you might think, but a Danish/American citizenship.
My parents met in New York. My mom, from a small town of Sejlflod in Jylland, Denmark. My Dad from the Pacific Northwest. So when they decided, with 6 months old me in their arms to move back to the US, they settled on Tacoma, WA. Kind of fortuitous that my journey should lead me back here - only about 10 blocks away from my first American home. But that's for a later chapter.
My parents divorced when I was three and my mother decided to move us, three girls, to Denmark. First Skanderborg, then what I now consider my hometown, Haslev. This is where I went to school, where I had friends, where I learned about life, and love and longing. This is where I grew up. If you can call yourself a "grown-up" at 17; that's when I moved away from home.
I then became what I would call a "Copenhagen nomade" moving almost 25 times in the 13 or so years I lived there, interrupted only by a 2-year stint in Barcelona - also a story for another chapter.
I finally up-rooted, if I ever had roots, and moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2010 when I was 31.
And that's the short, cliff notes version story. But that's not really how I want to tell it. I want to tell my story by delving into how that story made me, me. What it was like, being a part of two worlds, and what sometimes felt like not being a part of anything at all. Feeling like an outsider for all the wrong reasons, trying so hard to belong, but not feeling like I belonged at all.
As a child, I would spend the entire year going to school and living my life in Haslev and every other summer I would visit my Dad in Seattle. The alternating summers, he would visit us. I spoke (and still do speak) both languages fluently... mostly without an accent in either language. My dad would call every week long-distance to keep in touch with us girls. And in the '80s that was not cheap! My mom, even though she is 100% Dane, would make traditional Danish cooking right alongside fried chicken and cornbread. I felt the duality every day.
Consequently, it somehow made me feel divided. Instead of belonging everywhere, I felt like I didn't belong anywhere.
I suppose, with a different outlook on life, this duality could have made me feel abundant, like a citizen of the world, who had many homes. But my upbringing in so many ways nourished lack and dependence. And it made me feel stretched too thin. I was too American to be Danish and too Danish to be American. So I was, effectively, neither.
Every time I came back to Denmark I would miss the US terribly. But it was never actually true the other way around. This only occurred to me when I finally moved here, that the homesickness I would feel for the US when gone, never set in for Denmark. Yes, I missed my family, but not the culture, not the place itself.
In reality, moving to the US clarified a lot of things for me. I have always been more American than Danish, I know that now. I've been loud, brazen, and always had big dreams and big gestures. Not in any way the proper little girl my mother tried to raise me to be. I had a terrible temper, that felt uncontrollable at times and a big voice that was repeatedly told to not shine too brightly, not to make the other kids feel bad.
This may seem harsh, but anyone from Denmark would notice this as "Janteloven" or "The Law of Jante" - a culturally-induced oppression that the Danes all know too well. Again, this is a phenomenon I will explain in depth in another chapter. Suffice it to say, it's a classic "crabs in a bucket" syndrome. When one tries to climb out the others will pull it back down.
So I suppose I was not entirely caught in the middle. I sometimes describe myself as "half-and-half", with a chuckle. But that doesn't really describe me. In reality, I am more like 75/25. In the last ten years, I have learned to embrace my Danish roots, while also fully encompassing how American I really am. Immigrant heritage and all.
In truth, it probably doesn't matter what continent we are on. Denmark for me was a time in my life when I tried to hide who I truly was, in order to try and fit in. It was a time of listening to others over my own intuition, my inner voice. It was a time of not being and owning who I truly am and what my life's purpose is. The US for me has been the journey of fully growing into my true self. A journey of growth and self-exploration. Of owning all sides of me, even the ones I don't necessarily like. And most importantly listening to my own truth rather than what others say. It's not about Denmark and it's not about the US. It's about what each country represents to me and who I became during each timeframe I spent there.
I can now look at being "half-and-half" and feel grateful that I was blessed with so much diversity. And I can own my big voice and my larger than life attitude and put myself on a stage and feel right at home. But I can also remember where I came from, and what is truly important in life. Love of family, love of friends and most importantly, self-love.
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2020 is a new chapter, a new decade. We are heading into the roaring '20s. 100 years ago, this decade was booming with change. The most provocative music the world had ever heard, shorter dresses and a women's rights movement that looked like it would go a lot further than it actually did. Art soared to new heights with artists like Cézanne and Picasso breaking all the known rules. Literature was groundbreaking with Fitzgerald, Stein, and Hemingway. Women's Suffrage finally got women the chance to vote (in the US). The world looked bright.
It seems we are so advanced in so many things, but the fact that women have only been allowed to vote for 100 years, reminds me that there's still so much we have to learn.
To me, the '20s feel like another milestone. I follow the decades, off by only one year, so the '20s also bring my 40's. In 2019 and the beginning of 2020 I have sunk more resources into my career than I ever have before. And with any investment, there's no guarantee. And it's scary. As I am writing this, two days ago I was in my very first car accident. And that was scary. Two seconds and two more inches and my husband, dog and I would not be here today.
It seems like I've been thrown into an even deeper reflection than I usually am around New Year's Eve. Existentially and emotionally. I was upset with some of my choices and felt almost heavenly guided when it came to others.
I've never been one for New Year's resolutions. They always seemed too fleeting to me. I like goals, long term, and short term. And I hardly ever use the first of the year to make new starts anyway. That time is too cluttered with Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations and my birthday immediately after. New starts need time and space to breathe. A period of "not much going on" after which you can jump into the new plans whole-heartedly.
Sometimes, you just don't have those breathers. Last year I went from finishing up the Live It OutLoud program, straight into lots of shows and showcases and a trip to Nashville to record. That led straight into Christmas and here we are at New Year's with not a break or breather in sight. So new starts are just going to have to happen whenever they happen. And this year there happens to be a lot of new starts in the first of the year.
I hope you don't think I'm complaining. I feel blessed and invigorated by all these new changes in my career. I just take my breathers when I can. And I can't wait to share my new adventures as we head into the New Roaring '20s.
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When you have a goal or a pursuit in life, some choices seem easy and apparent. Some, on the other hand, seem difficult, unnecessary and unclear.
When I moved to the US wanting to become a country artist, it seemed pretty apparent that I would need to record some music. I would need to choose a name and obviously play a few (or a hundred) live shows.
But where to record? And what? What should I call myself? Where should (or even can) I play? Should I stay in the Northwest or move on to Nashville, like everyone else?
It even seems once you've made a choice in the direction of your dreams, it's done and you shouldn't have to think about it anymore. You move on to the next crossroads.
But the truth of the matter is, the same obstacles come up again and again. I'm hanging out with some friends in Nashville, meeting people and having a good time. There is no doubt that my music belongs here in Nashville, which is also why I come here to record and make an effort to spend time here. Most of the time I feel like I fit in and I'm doing some legitimate business here. But sometimes I feel like an alien because I didn't choose to move here in the first place. There seems to be an unsaid thing that if you haven't moved here, you're not really serious about your career. Yet, when I tell people I am a full-time musician, they are either thoroughly impressed or don't believe me and assume I drive Lyft on the side at the very least.
Most musicians I've met who are living in Nashville don't actually make ends meet with "just" music stuff. They have "day jobs" or do a plethora of different odd jobs. They barter with other musicians to make their own music or pour all their money back into their music careers.
So was my choice to not become a full-time Nashvillian a good one or a bad one? I don't know. But I do know that if I was living in Nashville right now, I would not be able to spend all of my time on my own music career the way I am while living in the Pacific NW. But then the question arises: would my career have gotten further than it is right now at this moment had I moved to Nashville in the first place?
Those are the unknowns, that we will never know. All I know is I never felt called to actually move to Nashville full time. I have felt called to spend more time in Nashville, and maybe one day I will have a second home here. But I always felt that in this day and age it doesn't matter where you live. You can pursue your music from anywhere. If I'm traveling 9 months out of the year playing shows, what does it matter where I actually live?
I also have the blessing of coming home and having my sanctuary with my family far away from the tumultuous music city. Where I can come home and unplug and not be pulled in every direction. Where I have a network of friends who support and encourage me. And that is probably my biggest reason for staying in the Pacific NW. And I have never regretted that decision.
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I consider myself an "all-or-nothing girl". The way I describe this is if I can't do it right, perfect or all the way, I don't do it at all. I'm sure you can imagine that this unbridled perfectionism got me nowhere for many years. It's partly the reason why I was over 30 when I finally started pursuing my dream of being a Country Artist.
I must say that the only one who ever held me to such high standards, was myself. And the only one who made the rule of what was "good enough", was me. My own personal perfect prison.
The way my environment helped me out with this world view, is probably something most school children can relate to. The mantra was: "mistakes are bad". It was all about not making mistakes. At all. To hell with what you can learn from them. This view was everywhere, in school, in church, in my family. Which, as an "all-or-nothing girl" wreaks tremendous havoc, as I strive to be absolutely perfect. And what does that even mean? Perfection is subjective, but I viewed it as an absolute, a goal to achieve, and falling miserably short every single time.
Now, don't get me wrong, there is something really valuable to get out of being an "all-or-nothing girl". I got really good at whatever I pursued because I worked so freaking hard on everything. Striving for perfection I wouldn't rest until I had reached an "acceptable" skill level. Again, what was acceptable, was entirely dictated by me.
The flipside to this striving syndrome is that I would give up the most worthy endeavors before I even gave them a try. My music career was one of them. I would asses from the starting line that the road was too hard, my skills too low and my chances of succeeding (whatever that means) too slim and deem it undoable.
This left me very unhappy.
Once I decided against all odds to pursue my dreams, my view on this needed to change. I needed to learn to enjoy the journey because the end-result of "success" was rather blurry. I needed to be ok with where I was at with my skills and play anyway. Because the only way of pursuing what truly makes me happy was to put myself out there and make a million mistakes. "But mistakes are bad!" the "all-or-nothing girl" would exclaim. And so this world view too had to go.
The word "mistakes" is even the wrong word for it. When you want to learn to be on a stage, the only way to learn is to be on a stage, it's the ultimate catch 22. And so you have to be willing to put yourself out there, with all your mishaps and missed chords and do it anyway.
Suddenly it wasn't about being ready, it was about just being. And being ok with however things turned out.
If I could do one thing to help other "all-or-nothing girls" I would remove the word "mistake" from our vocabulary. Or at least have everyone make friends with it. With mistakes not being demonized, we are free to make them and learn from them and possibly throw ourselves into incredible things that we would otherwise deem unachievable. How do you know what's unachievable unless you try?
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This month of Thanksgiving I have been preoccupied with gratitude. I even put "Gratitude is my Attitude" on my sign in the little bar we have in the living room. Cliche, I know. But I truly am feeling it right now.
Thankfulness and appreciation... those are words that come to mind when I think of gratitude. Loving what you have and not longing for anything to be different.
As a child, I was taught to be grateful for God's forgiveness. To be grateful that Jesus gave his life for us. As well-meaning as these religious teachings were, I once thought of gratitude as a guilt-driven emotion. Gratitude was a debt you owed for something you never asked anyone to do for you. You had to feel grateful, or you were a spoiled little brat. It was years before I understood gratitude and gratefulness fully. Probably because I simply had never felt it. Or at least the version of gratitude I was taught, wasn't what I consider true gratitude today.
I was taught "it is better to give than to receive" another oxymoron since as a child, it always seems better to receive. Once again, the guilt of not actually feeling that way gave the gratitude I felt when I did receive a tainted feel to it.
As a young adult, I sometimes found myself in situations where people thought I was ungrateful for something they had done for me. Often, I didn't understand why. I was grateful (in the actual sense of the word) and I expressed my gratitude by saying thank you, but at that time in my life, I would attract people who didn't think that was enough. I wasn't enough. I was apparently supposed to exclaim it further, and possibly also read their minds, that would have been best. So once again, guilt was associated with thankfulness. Two very clashing emotions, that normally don't have anything to do with each other. But the association made it very hard for me to understand and value the true meaning of gratitude.
When I first heard of Oprah's Gratitude Journal back in the 90's, I was skeptical. I'm pretty sure it was because my then version of gratitude was something forced upon me and not something I knew how to feel. It was years before I felt called to keep one myself.
It wasn't until the amazing Genevieve Davis introduced the gratitude journal in her book "Becoming Magic" that I started getting a feel for the true meaning of gratitude. It helped that she mentioned you could substitute the gratitude journal for a "how wonderful" or "I'm so happy" -journal. When I put those words in front of things I was genuinely grateful for, a flush of true gratitude would rush over me. I finally understood gratitude. Not by having it explained. Not by words, but by feeling it deep into my soul.
She also made a big deal of not writing down things you think you should feel grateful for, but aren't. This was exactly my block around gratitude since it had been so heavily associated with feeling guilty.
My understanding of gratitude is now light and airy but deep and warm at the same time. It is not a state of mind, it is an emotion. And for me, it's a very physical one. I keep my gratitude journal to this day. When I write a sentence in it, I sit and feel the gratitude for that thing. I find that focusing upon things you are happy about or grateful for in your life is the most potent and powerful boost you can give your life.
What are you grateful for?
I once read the book “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. If you get a chance to read it, you should. It’s a good book. In the book, she describes her journey on the Pacific Crest Trail and the personal changes she underwent during that journey. In it, she describes this as “doing something glorious and hard”. If you’ve ever busted some boundaries and dared to do something you didn’t think you could, you know exactly what that feels like. Like the time I went alone to India for 5 weeks and lived in an ashram and took my yoga teachers training. That’s what I was remembered, as I read those words.
Did you know that I did that? That journey was earth-shattering for me. I traveled for days to get Mumbai, even crossed the country on a train, which in India is quite an adventure on its own. Threw myself into the world of suicidal scooter-taxis and “helpers” who will grab your things without permission and then demand money for helping you. The world where saying the word “no” is considered rude, so if you ask a question and you’re met with “okay-okay”, you can be pretty sure they really meant no. Or maybe. Sometimes it means yes. I never really figured that out.
I spent hours of a 13-hour strict regiment bending my body in ways I didn’t even know it could, working for two weeks just to be able to find the balance on my head and endless hours of meditation, most of them spent resisting an itch. Excursions to local temples, climbing 500 steps and getting to see the innermost holy of a temple, something most westerners don’t get to see.
Doing karma yoga, which is basically doing chores, thought of as "working out your karma". Learning the ways of yoga, the 8 limbs of yoga, how the mind works, how this world is an illusion and how to seek the path to enlightenment. But most profoundly was the change in me. How I woke to my true self, my desires my passion and started listening to my heart and what it had to tell me. I came there to get a teacher's certificate. I walked away with so much more.
That was glorious and hard.
So, years later, as I was reading Cheryl Strayed’s words, I was thinking: it’s been a long time since I’ve done something glorious and hard.
Fast forward to today. This morning I woke to an aching body. Aching from a 6 am rise the day before with a 5-hour drive, a soundcheck, a showcase and hours of networking afterward. On top of that, only having very little to eat and fighting an inner ear infection on antibiotics. My whole body is aching this morning as I slowly get ready for the next 5-hour drive. I was even thinking it takes a certain type of person to be willing to do this.
But on top of it all, I’m smiling. I'm happy. Because I am living my dream. Because the opportunities that lie before me seem so bright and the showcase yesterday went so well. I’m excited to have an agent who is genuine and looking out for me.
I’ve been preparing for this for 9 years. I’ve been honing my craft, taking the steps (sometimes one step forward and two steps back) making the necessary changes, adjusted, created and created some more. It’s been a long journey and I’m starting to see some fruit, but it’s still my journey. And then it hit me: I am doing it! I am doing something glorious and hard.
I was standing at Tour de Pier (Bike for Cancer), a very cool event btw, and after singing the National Anthem I stuck around for a bit to see how the event went. One of the instructors had "The Climb" as one of their songs. Not a song I would have normally expected at a spinning event, nevertheless, I was standing there, in the rain, singing along with Miley Cyrus.
Now, I never watched Hannah Montana, nor have I ever really listened to Miley Cyrus. The only other time I have ever heard that song was at an event in Denmark the summer before I left to move to the US. I was immediately brought back there...
I was at a Gospel event at Tivoli Gardens. I had sung on the big stage and was standing there looking at some of the other artists getting ready for their set. I was about to embark on the biggest journey of my life. I was going to move to the US and become a country artist. I remember back then it seemed silly, even to me, to say it out loud. It was only a little bud of a dream, but I was passionate and determined. I was saying goodbye to friends, to my homeland. I should have been sad but I wasn't. I was excited. I was so ready to go prove myself, to embark on my new journey.
During the intermission, "The Climb" came on. I don't know what it is about that song. It's like the lyrics pierce right through me. They did then and they do now. "I can almost see it, that dream I'm dreaming but there's a voice inside my head sayin', you'll never reach it". It brought shivers through me. There I was, about to chase the biggest dream of all, and I could hear that little voice too, saying "you'll never reach it". The doubt within the determination. I remember looking up the song, to see who performed it. Kinda surprised to see it was Hannah Montana. As I listened to that song, I felt like I was ready to take on the world, regardless of the outcome, I was ready to live the life I choose. And that it didn't really matter how far I got, as long as I tried.
This time, standing in the rain at Lake Union in Seattle, the song hit me again. But this time the song resonated with me differently. It's been almost a decade since that summer in Tivoli. A decade of that journey. A decade of that climb. Mountain after mountain. Reaching parts of the dream and still chasing others. It made me think of all I've been through since then. I realized in a whole new way how much it really is about the climb. I truly didn't care how long it was going to take. It didn't matter what was on the other side. Or if there even is a destination. It is all about making the journey. It really is all about the climb.
"There's always going to be another mountain, I'm always going to want to make it move."
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One of my biggest passions in life is personal growth. I devour self-help books and spiritual books just to learn more about the human experience. I think I might be addicted to insights. You know, those blips of realizations after which you never look at things the same way again? Call them epiphanies, aha-moments or inspirations - it's all the same to me. I quietly ponder and let my mind settle and sometimes, not every time, but sometimes some genius arises from within me. I know I am the source of these insights, but I know I don't come up with them. They come from something greater.
I've learned that insights come more reliably when I'm in a certain state of mind. The less busy my mind is, the better. Sometimes I can't let my mind settle to save my life. My mind feels muddled and cloudy. Other times my mind is remarkably calm even when I'm physically busy doing other stuff. These are the least convenient times to get an insight. But funnily enough, often when my song inspirations occur.
It's hard to describe what an insight is. But I'll try: I think about something a certain way. Then from seemingly out of nowhere, I get a flash, a thought, an insight of being able to see that same thing a different way.
My teacher in India told it this way: "It's dark and you look at something that appears to be a snake. You get frightened and want to run for your life. But when you turn the light on, you see it is only a rope. Even when the light goes off again, you can't see the same thing as a snake ever again. Because now you know, it's a rope."
I think this is the phenomenon that makes children see monsters in their rooms. Like the beginning scene of Monsters Inc. where the child sees the monster approaching, but then it's only his jacket hanging over the chair.
Once we realize something profound like that, everything else looks different. It almost feels like you get a new view of life like you stepped up the ladder of life and are able to see things from a different, a clearer, perspective.
Reading books about spiritual and self-help topics seems to get my mind churning in a very specific way that lets out insights. Maybe it's the act of quiet listening (I listen to audiobooks while I drive) while simultaneously having to be relaxed but alert that creates that perfect state of mind for these insights to occur. I'm not sure why, but it works for me. And I think this is why I love it so.