“Man is only truly great when he acts from his passions.” ~Benjamin Disraeli
Like many of us, I had a difficult childhood. My parents’ relationship was unhappy and unhealthy, and their misery left me feeling alone, afraid, and anxious most of the time.
My environment was so unpredictable that I often withdrew from family and friends, losing myself in the comfort of my own creativity.
I fell in deep and indescribable love with music at a very young age. The radio became my confidant, my protector, my therapist, my escape. I would sing and preen and pose like a rock star, imagining thousands of frenzied fans singing my songs back to me with tears in their eyes.
Music inspired me to do everything. Create art. Write songs. Sing. Dance. Act.
By the time I was a teenager, I knew exactly who I was and what I wanted to be. I was a good writer—infinitely curious about people and what made them tick. And music was my passion.
I wanted to travel the world as a rock journalist, follow my favorite bands, write about their lives and music, and live like a rock star. And one day I would start my own band, get onstage, and be a rock star. Those things would be my “gift” to the world.
But it never happened.
I listened to people who told me my dreams were too big. That jobs for rock journalists were few and far between. That I wasn’t being realistic and would never make a good living that way.
So I did what I thought I should. I found a stable corporate writing job that offered health benefits and a nice retirement plan. And eventually, I lost touch with the creative, spontaneous, audacious girl with gigantic rock-star dreams.
I shifted my focus to a more responsible, practical life. I had no time for frivolous hobbies or daydreams. And very soon, I was restless, bored, angry, and miserable.
I changed jobs often and with every new job, my misery deepened. My anger escalated. I wasn’t sure why.
I blamed the work. I blamed the environment. I even blamed the people I worked with.
It was only through an extended bout with depression that I uncovered the greatest source of my anger and unhappiness. During a therapy session, my counselor encouraged me to think back to when I was happy in my life.
“What were you doing that made you happy, Angela?” she asked. “How did you spend your time then? How did it make you feel?”
I realized that I was happiest when I was using my creative gifts: music, writing, art, and performance. Using my gifts made me feel like me. And hiding them away was making me miserable.
So I committed to re-discovering my creative self and honoring my gifts. It was scary for me, so I started small. I committed to one hip-hop dance class.
And suddenly the damn was broken. Before I knew it, I was singing again, designing jewelry, taking photographs, teaching myself to play the guitar. Anything and everything that sparked a creative fire in me was fair game.
And very soon after, I felt happy! Like me. Like I had taken in a huge breath and finally let go. I became more positive, more optimistic, more joyful than ever.
This journey has taught me so many things about the gifts we’ve all been given and why it’s so important to honor them:
Our gifts are an expression of our deepest selves.
They’re not just things we “do” with our time. Our gifts reflect who we are at our very core, and who the world needs us to be. When we deny that, we deny our true nature and cause ourselves great pain.
Using our gifts keeps us aligned with a purpose.
Our gifts point us in the right direction, help us focus, and show us a clear path to joy. When we discover our gifts and learn how to use them, we no longer worry about who we are and why we’re here.
Using our gifts builds our confidence and self-esteem.
Many of us have to push past a great deal of fear and resistance to use our gifts. Every time we do that, we feel more confident about pushing even further, and more certain that everything we’re doing is a step in the right direction.
Our gifts fill us up and validate us.
Using our gifts make us feel whole and deeply fulfilled. Having that measure of happiness in our lives keep us from seeking fulfillment and validation in empty vices, material attachments, addictions, and unhealthy relationships.
Our gifts help us help others.
When we do what we’re good at—what we truly love to do—and we share it with the world, it helps other people find their way, too.
I’ve started writing again and getting back in touch with that audacious girl with huge rock-and-roll dreams—the one who still jumps up and down and screams out loud when her favorite band comes to town. I think the world really needs her.
I’m also working with a mentor who encourages, guides, and supports me with an incredible amount of patience, compassion, and humor.
This journey has been tough. I’ve spent a lot of time questioning and second-guessing myself and my gifts. But I’m thrilled to report that I’ve finally surrendered. In fact, should I ever backslide into questions and self-doubt again, I’ve asked my mentor to reply as follows:
“Shhhhhhh. Faith, Angela. Keep writing.”