Singer, writer, woman, daydreamer. Artist, friend, daughter, sister.
Trying to figure out where I stand in a world full of expectations, limitations and learned behaviours.
Finding my breath as I move through life In a constantly changing, authentic and truthful way.
Creativity is my best friend.
Intuition is my connection to the world around me.
It's taken my entire life thus far to finally reach a point where I am starting to make sense to myself. A nice little
byproduct of this, is that I'm starting to make sense to other people too. While some might be frightened to pursue the uncertainty of an entrepreneurial way of life, I find it scarier imagining it any other way.
I did it. I worked at a major bank for over two years downtown Toronto and with each passing day I began to hate it more and more. And though a cushy future was promised, I just couldn't dive in. In fact, when I was presented with an opportunity to sink my heels deep into the corporate world, I did the opposite of what many people would do and...I quit. Yep! The pathway to guaranteed success and financial comfort was presented to me and instead of following it, I handed in my resignation and moved towards music and creativity. In other words I moved back home to Hamilton with mom and dad and moved out of the Big Smoke - a juicy concoction of swallowing my pride while simultaneously feeling gratitude for even having the option of moving back home in order to pursue this little nudge inside of my heart.
I finished up at work approximately six months after moving home, purchased my first car (I'm still in love with my 99 Acura, no joke!) and embarked on a journey to North Toronto every day for 10 weeks at Canada's Music Incubator. Happening to coincide with a major life shift (a nice way of saying, my life was turned upside down in every way and I was like a little human hurricane), the Artist Educator program was an explosion of emotions for me. Along with 17 other artists - many of who were WAY further along - we learned a multitude of seriously important skills about every facet of the music industry while also exploring performance and writing.
While in my personal life I had submerged into a deep, dark ocean of shame and confusion with regards to my ongoing relationship with and reliance on alcohol, I simultaneously felt inspired and encouraged to pursue a life of music while also being unsure and uncertain that I had what it takes to be an artist in the industry. I kept thinking, "but Carissa, this is ALL you've ever wanted", and then I would get up on stage and my nerves would just eat away at any joy I could possibly feel. I constantly compared myself to others and simply felt I had missed my opportunity many, many times. I saw other people willing to give their entire selves to music and to the industry and though I can't quite put words to it, there was always something about it and about the industry that just left me feeling that I couldn't totally be myself - even if I didn't know exactly what that was at the time.
I think one of my greatest tortures in life has been knowing that I have talent and not being able to do anything with it - to think that I wanted certain things but not being able to do the work it takes to make those things a reality whether it be due to nerves, mental chaos OR due to a seemingly innate preference for drinking, having fun and 'living life' instead. Though there is literally an endless list of potential reasons why I wanted to escape from my reality, one of the threads that has remained constant throughout this entire process has been the belief and conviction that life is meant for enjoying and that there must be another way to live that is outside of our traditional structures of work, work, work, weekend.
While working at the bank (the final six months or so) I developed a nice little friend called asthma - exercise induced asthma the doctor said. That little bugger became such a problem for me that I could hardly carry on regular conversation and slowly it began affecting my singing. Though the adrenaline of performance often kicked it to the curb for performance time, it hovered around my practice, my warmups and my rehearsals making it an incredibly challenging and outright annoying addition to my already cumbersome life. Yes, I attempted to manage it through expensive puffers but no, it didn't go away. I am confident that coworkers and some friends must have thought I was putting on a show, hardly able to breathe through a standard conversation but the crappy thing? It was real.
Asthma came and went throughout the next year, reaching it's all-time annoyance this past January (2017). Never before had asthma truly interfered with my ability to perform...until January. In the middle of my gig I went to the bathroom, stared at myself in the mirror and thought "how is this happening?". I couldn't even finish my phrases without feeling that a cough would escape my lungs and into the microphone! I literally felt COMPLETELY helpless to the wheeze in my lungs and I watched as tears welled up in the corner of my eyes. I was pissed! Singing was my thing. How could this be happening to me?
At this particular time I was house sitting for a friend and the next morning, whilst sipping coffee and journalling, I lost it. I cried and cried and cried, trying to catch my breath, feeling totally overwhelmed by my new reality. I began to think things like "who am I without singing?, what if I can't ever sing again? do I even like singing or do I hate it? what is my identity if not a singer?"
All the while, I'll be honest...I felt a little whisper of relief.
I don't know if I could put words to it that morning but today I can tell you what that whisper was: the relief came from feeling that I might be gifted an excuse NOT to pursue music - or at least to not have to pursue singing in the way in which I thought. I didn't see any other option but to cancel all upcoming gigs and that I did.
The relief was almost instant. A few days in to making this decision, my asthma lessened its grip on my chest. Two weeks in, it nearly disappeared. Today, I hardly ever feel it.
Ask anyone in my family and they will confirm this. I went from being unable to speak without gasping for air to being completely normal.
Truth be told...I think I was looking for another option, another path - an out. A legitimate and immediate reason to pursue other passions such as writing. I really felt that as unpleasant as the whole thing was I was being gifted an opportunity to explore other interests and to ironically, find my voice.
It's difficult to move through life thinking, feeling and believing that you are only good at one thing. What happens when that thing isn't fully enjoyable or if aspects of it actually trigger anxiety? If singing is my only pillar of identity, how do I cope with the nervousness of performing? If singing is my ticket in this world, how does one handle the feelings of confusion surrounding the profession, it's limitations and impossibilities or lack of stability and guarantee (even more so than being entrepreneurial in spirit)? Or better yet, how do I admit that I have no idea what I'm doing, who I am or what I want from life?
My experience with asthma opened up a whole new world to me. Asthma gave me the green light I needed to go exploring other avenues of my soul that I hadn't given myself permission to venture into before! The symbolism I took from this highly emotional and somewhat traumatic time opened my eyes to a new way of experiencing life and brought me closer in line with my truth. And that my friends, is HUGE.
I have returned to singing...but on different terms. I no longer view singing as something that I must do in order to find meaning in my life and I no longer pressure myself to pursue a singing career that conflicts with my personality or comfort levels.
During this time I made an important realization about how much I love to write and how much I adore the feeling I get while doing it! I also recognized an opportunity to fill a major gap in the wellness conversation with regards to women and alcohol and I feel called to create a community for this to take place. Over the last couple of years I have completely shifted my relationship with alcohol through reflection and understanding and though I still drink, I now drink consciously and not to escape my reality, fear or pain. *edit: On July 7th, 2017, I embarked on a 365 day no drinking challenge and I explore this in my blog.
I'm approaching the two year mark since quitting my job and saying yes to the possibility of something different and I must say that I am delightfully surprised by the direction I have taken my life and for the opportunities I have created for myself. Though it might not be exactly what I imagined, I am happily on track and aligned with my core self.
I only need take a quick peak behind me to see and feel how far I've come.