Where There’s a “Won’t” There’s a Will – Karen Hogle Brown

“You will always be a good reader and a good choral singer, but you won’t ever be a soloist,” my mom said to me only a few years ago when I was home for Christmas, as matter of factly as if it was a truth written in an encyclopedia.  This had been closely followed by my parents sending out the mass-produced Christmas letter from our family, stating how my sister is getting her doctorate in psycology and saving the world, while Karen was still in LA trying to do that singing thing.  I was used to it by this point, hearing all my life, “you won’t get into that school, so we won’t apply,” or “you won’t be going out tonight with your friends, you have reading to do” or “you won’t go to college if you don’t bring up those A minuses.”  It took me months of therapy, moving a state away , and several years on my own to realize that my mom doesn’t control me and her opinion and advice mean little, if nothing, to me anymore.  It felt good to know that I am the master of my own destiny and my own person. I can live my life the way I want to, with or without her approval.  The only problem – I had learned the “I won’t” lesson so well for the first part of my life that when I let my mom’s approval go, I didn’t realize I was still doing it to myself.

Entering my thirties, my voice began to grow, and while I had a successful choral career, I felt somewhere inside that I was capable of more and didn’t want to settle.  I began to study harder and learn new songs, and put myself out into the musical world more.  However, with any mis-step or bad audition, I would still tell myself, “you aren’t good enough,” and “what makes you think you can do this.”  I had been bullied into a way of thinking so much that in its absence, I began to bully myself.  I even contemplating giving up singing, but thought, “what will I do then?” There has never been a day in my life that I haven’t wanted to be a musician.  There is nothing that holds that much joy, passion, or pleasure to me.  I had teachers and friends and a husband that believed in me, and I definitely respect their opinions, so maybe I had to listen to them for awhile.  I couldn’t dismiss their compliments and urgings if I really trust them and their opinions.  After feeling stuck for so long, I realized in order to change my fate, I had to change my behavior.  It’s still a daily battle, but I try to keep it simple.  My messages to myself are “negative talk won’t get you anywhere, so you can’t give in to it” and “what would that person you respect who believes in you say?”  Instead of my own negative advice, I choose to follow the positive advice from those I know and love.  That’s the only way I know I can move foward.

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