On February 1st, I released my new single "Soon" - the first of 11 songs that I'll be releasing throughout 2023 in accordance with the various celebrations and commemorations that we tend to honor throughout the year in the United States.
Of course, February is Black History Month, but it's also Valentine's Day - hence my release of Soon, but also
March has International Women's Day, bringing attention to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence and abuse against women
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month: raising public awareness about sexual assault and educating communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which [and I didn't know this until right this minute] was launched in 1949.
June is Immigrant Heritage Month, a time to reflect and honor the contributions that immigrants have made to our communities across the country
July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month bringing awareness to the unique struggles that racial and ethnic minority communities face regarding mental illness in the United States
August is Don't Be a Bully Month, a time to focus and raise awareness on bullying
September is Drug and Alcohol Addiction Month [otherwise referred to as National Recovery Month by the NAADAC otherwise known as The Association for Addiction Professionals
October is Depression Awareness Month, focusing on mental health education and depression awareness
November is National Homeless Youth Month, otherwise referred to as the National Runaway Prevention Month, which brings awareness and extends prevention measures to the many youth who runaway every year. This month is also an opportunity to spotlight the available resources for runaway youth who find themselves in crisis.
... then of course there's Christmas in December.
The puzzling thing, however is that - as a teenager or person in my late 20's, I somehow wrote [at least] one song that aligns perfectly with these monthly themes.... songs that exemplified my process of turning struggles into song... redirecting my experiences with depression, losing friends to drugs and alcohol, and even sexual assault... all through the medium of music and songwriting.
But I'm not writing this blog today to talk about artivism in accordance with the months. I mean, yes: artistic activism is important, and a mission I've always aligned myself with.... but in order for artivism to exist: there [unfortunately] needs to be adversity to rally against, or in response to... and if there's adversity, there needs to be a method that helps us to turn those adverse experiences and struggles into something powerful. Something hopeful. Something positive. Especially when you're a teenager.
There needs to be some kind of outlet and tool for people - especially adolescents - to be able to focus their energies on the silver linings, lessons and blessings that come from those adverse experiences.
Well, I believe music and songwriting do just that.
We see it with the likes of En Vogue's song "Free Your Mind" or Jordan Peele's film "Get Out". Billie Eilish's "When the Party's Over" and even Colin Kaepernick's kneeling-turned-movement.
In other words: yes. Adversity exists. But - as with everything in life: we can either go through the struggle, or grow through it.
And grow was exactly what I did when I wrote the song "Soon".
Being a teenager is rough.
You may have blocked your teen years out of your head, but let me challenge you to go back for minute. Remember those feelings, experiences, and struggles. It's a period of our lives when we're breaking up with childhood, flirting with adulthood, and struggling to find our footing when it comes to figuring out what and how much space we're taking up, how to express ourselves, and what boxes we see ourselves fitting into... if any.
Teenage brains often fill with self deprecating personal stories counterbalanced with hope that there actually is endless possibility when it comes to their health and happiness, which is then exacerbated by raging hormones, low confidence, social and family pressures, academics struggles, family drama... gasp.
Take a breath.
There needs to be a better way to handle teenage stress. There needs to be a better way to support a stressed teenager.
It's obviously a complex issue, but - dear reader - I argue that actually yes. There is a better way.
And "Soon" - just like every other song that I'll be releasing this year - was one of my personal examples of how it works.
I was 14 when I wrote Soon. Balancing the spaces between
still recovering from significant brain trauma [you can learn more about that in my recent TEDx Talk here]
trying to figure out boys and relationships
how to connect better with my peers group[s]
body dysmorphia and self esteem issues
loving education, but struggling with my academic life
growing up with a solo mother, and a father who lived a 3.5hour flight away in Fiji - a completely different life and culture
and, of course, raging hormones
I was always a sensitive soul that felt deeply, but I was also stubborn and knew what I wanted in life. And, at 14, I'll be honest: I wanted a relationship with a boy much older than me.
So I did what most teenagers do [unfortunately], and I rebelled. I was a good kid, who had big dreams, but - in many ways - I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to channel my emotions healthily, and I certainly didn't know how to communicate effectively with my mother about the overwhelm, stress, heartbreak, sadness, fear and anxiety I had about... well, everything.
But especially about the boy.
So, I did what I - and I think most teenagers - do best: and I avoided the confrontations. I snuck around. I kept my head down, and didn't communicate properly. I cried - a lot. I got angry - a lot. But I discovered one effective tool for channeling my emotions... and that was, you guessed it: songwriting.
Remember: I was a stubborn and emotional teenager... and I hated confrontation. But I found that writing music - especially songs like "Soon" - was the perfect way for me to express my innermost thoughts, hopes and feelings without fear of rejection or even retaliation. Even better, because music allows us to use "creative license", the mere act of songwriting allowed me to share things through my lyrics that I could shrug off as "artistic freedom" should I be challenged on what they meant.
What I've come to learn, however, is that the "artistic freedom" that I used to cling to so much was actually my way of using music to alchemize my dark thoughts into empowered ones. My fear about what would happen to my relationship into something hopeful and positive.
"Soon" was my way of processing my unhealthy thoughts healthily.
But it also gave my mother a sense of understanding about what was going through my teenaged brain at the time. Writing "Soon" almost created a dialog between us that we didn't have to talk about, but was still there, so that my mother could at least know what her precocious teenaged daughter was feeling, experiencing, and processing.
Then, something interesting happened: Soon came 9th in the entire country of New Zealand in the inaugural Play it Strange Secondary School's Songwriting Competition.
This meant that suddenly I
had the opportunity to be on television singing my hopeful love song to the world
was being played on the radio
was far more "popular" at school than I'd ever been
was feeling far more validated than I'd felt since long before my last stint of brain surgeries
It was almost as if my music was helping me fill up the holes in my young, but still very traumatized, self esteem, and allowing me the space and time to show up more authentically for myself - and my peers.
In other words, Soon gave me, as a 14year old, the ability to:
be heard, without feeling constricted or confronted
start turning my fears into something positive and hopeful
But do you know the most interesting part of this whole process? Even now - 20 years later - I listen back to a song I wrote as a young teenager, and catch glimpses of how that positive outlook can continue to serve me today.
Whether "we'll get there soon" is referring to love, one's career, or recovering from a global pandemic.... Soon is a song about hope, and holding on for another day.
That's the power of songwriting. That's the power of being supported and coached through turning our struggles into song.
I've been doing this work for a long time - over 20 years in fact! - and I'm such a big believer in how pivotal writing the write anthem for one's life can be.
So I'm excited to share with you over the next year, the stories behind each song I'll be releasing, as they're not newly written songs.
They're songs from my inner-teenager... songs from my past... but songs that continue to serve me even to this day.
If you want to learn more about the power of songwriting, and how it can serve you or your teenager, click here to book a free discovery call with me.
Until then: enjoy the music.