10 years ago today,
I was woken up by a phone call telling me I had cancer… Wow, it feels like yesterday and also like 10 years ago! This past decade of extreme ups and downs has pushed me past my breaking point several times over, and in the process, so much has changed.
I’m grateful to be healthy now, and enjoying my life with the people I love—especially now as an auntie, a dog momma and a wife!
A Turning Point
My career totally did a complete 180– I was hustling to perform as a singer-songwriter, but even sold out shows only paid enough to hire the band. The SLOG of trying to sell tickets, find rehearsal spaces, and shlep my heavy gear wasn’t sustainable for me. It took awhile to admit it, but I wasn’t enjoying the business of it—only the singing.
The turning point was when I sold out the Burren in Somerville— but in order to pay my band fairly, I couldn’t pay myself—so I sold original art pieces at my show…
I ended up making $400+ in merch sales that night and none of it was CDs- it was paintings!
I knew deep down that the feelings of dread I was experiencing around gigs was real, but I kept comparing myself to others, thinking they were more committed and more serious musicians than I was.
I also felt an obligation to the career track after getting a degree from Berklee and literally having my voice saved by cancer surgery, since without it I would have lost my ability to talk and sing completely… Talk about pressure, huh?
The problem was, I was giving myself an ultimatum - either I am a musician or an artist, but I can’t be both.
Eventually (after years of unnecessary struggling with this notion) I realized that I wasn’t “giving up” on music by having the pursuit play second fiddle to art. I wasn’t failing either… I was EVOLVING — AKA integrating the old me and the new me together, in a novel way.
The new narrative I’ve been practicing is this: I can keep music in my life—I can even still earn a side income—but it doesn’t have to be ALL OR NOTHING in order for me to be considered a legitimate musician. I’m not losing the investment of time and money. It’s an indispensable part of who I am and it’s okay to adjust my relationship with it.
Rearranging the Pieces
To make a super long story much shorter, I am now a full-time artist with a specialty in illustration and graphic design.
I have illustrated 10 Children’s picture books in 3 years, and I’ve helped those indie authors with my design skills by building websites, crafting logos, merchandise, and promotional content.
It’s been so fulfilling, because I get to tap into my love of children and the kind of positive messages I want to help circulate in the world.
The business model of art is 1,000x more sustainable and healthy for me. Little to no overhead costs, I get to work from home for the most part, and my soul feels full at the end of the day. It also supports my future family life goals better than being on the road.
I still enjoy music as a fun side hustle, recording session vocals and performing with the Cosmic Orchestra regularly in NY. During the pandemic Sean and I recorded on dozens of projects- including one of them where I got to sing background vocals behind Andy Falco and the one and only Joss Stone, which was an honor!
My songwriting degree is actually starting to apply itself in a new and unexpected way… I am using those lyrical skills to write children’s books and my big dream is to become traditionally published as an author-illustrator some day. I’m taking the baby steps towards finding an agent and preparing my stories/art, but who knew my songwriting would become useful in this new way?!
All in all, the lesson I’ve learned is to reframe all that change as EVOLVING, instead of looking at it as “giving up.” It’s been courage and persistence and the willingness to adjust my sails that has sustained me. I still get to enjoy all the parts of me but they are arranged in an order that suits me much better.
Will it all change again? Probably, HA! Big thanks to the family, friends, clients and supporters of all kinds who have been a part of the journey.
PS: This is my new blog, where I will be sharing behind the scenes stories from the freelancer life, art tutorials, freelancer insights, updates on picture books and more. Check back here or subscribe to my mailing list to be looped in on future posts. Thanks for the support!