Bet that title caught your attention.
In 1984 in her Oscar acceptance speech, Sally Field said “You like me, right now, you like me!” It was one of those moments I’m betting she’ll never live down. But a number of years later, I read an article about why that sentiment was actually not a bad thing. We spend so much of our lives working hard, and when we get recognition from others, it’s amazing to realize that “you like me!”
I spent (past tense, please note) many, many years excusing myself, downplaying every achievement. Every triumph I brought home with any pride was met with one of two sentiments – “Pride goeth before a fall, and a haughty spirit before destruction,”, or “That’s all well and good, but remember, there is always someone who can do that better than you.” Looking back, I understand that the intention was to ensure I didn’t get too cocky, too overconfident, and learned to give credit to others for their own accomplishments. In practice, it left me believing I was utterly inadequate, incapable of doing anything significant. I was self-deprecating to a fault, always adding a “but” to the end of any statement that I thought might be construed a brag – “I did this, but, of course, it’s not as good as …”
Then I had two eye-opening moments. The first was discovering that “pride goeth before the fall…” – that biblical quote that had been used to knock me down again and again and again – was actually a misquote.* Which, when I pointed that out to the speaker, was met with dismissal and disdain. It couldn’t be misquoted, they said (quite proudly, I may add), and it didn’t matter anyway, because that’s how they learned it. Hmmm.
The second was the realization that, while it is true that there is always someone who can do this or that thing better than I, the inverse is also true – that I can do some things better than someone else. And those simultaneous truths can happily co-exist.
With this knowledge in hand, I was finally able to pour my heart into composition. Still, years of conditioning had left me with a deeply ingrained streak of self-deprecation. It wasn’t until I was nearly 50 that someone called me out, in no uncertain terms, for apologizing for myself. And that was literally the day I stopped. (Thank you, Dr. Nick.)
So I write. Bit by bit, that self-doubt, that feeling of being “not good enough” continues to shrink away. It’s not always easy. I see my friends and peers sharing their accomplishments on social media and think, “boy, they’re doing so much more, so much better than I am!” But it’s not a competition. Whether I do more or less than my peers isn’t important. What’s important is, do I like what I do? Can I be proud of my accomplishments? (And there is a world of difference between being “proud” and being “prideful.”)
I am very pleased the answer I can truthfully give now is a resounding “yes.” I like what I do. I’m proud of the music that I write, and I think it is good. Is it dramatically, life-changingly new and unique and world-shaking? Does that even matter? I’m not trying to write music to change the world. I’m trying to write what I like, and hopefully people (at least some people) will enjoy what they hear.
I think I’m successful in that regard. Many people who hear my music tell me they enjoy it. Not everyone will like it, but that’s fine. All those individual sensibilities are what keep this an interesting journey. But I’m reaching more people. I have music out on 5 CDs now (something I still find hard to believe!). Two of my works have been played at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, and I have another one in the works for 2020. Ensembles and individuals are seeking me out to write for them, and that is an amazing feeling!
So I’ll keep doing what I do. Because yes, I am that good.