It started when I was twelve years old.
I had feelings.
Though I think I wanted to push them out, I couldn’t. Eventually everyone found out about my crush, including the boy I on whom I was crushing. I didn’t like that feelings of that nature lacked rationality. I couldn’t control them or explain them. I couldn’t really combat them. Plus, I’m an INTJ, which is not a personality type that does well with emotions in general.
Mostly, I didn’t like the way feelings or emotions made me vulnerable. Vulnerability was terrifying, and when my first attempt at it ended rather badly—with rejection and reprimand—I subconsciously decided never to be vulnerable again.
And then I wrote my first song.
It was called “Letting Go,” and though I thought I was letting go of “things that weighed me down,” namely, emotions, I was actually letting go of part of my humanity. I was eradicating all desire and ability to express emotions. At twelve years old, I began freezing over. I turned cold.
It kept me from ever showing or talking about my feelings again, but it drove me to pen and paper, and then a guitar and a keyboard.
Songwriting was safe.
I wrote about the feelings I kept a secret. I wrote about what I thought love was supposed to be like. I wrote about broken friendships. I wrote about being bullied. I wrote about playing with fire. I wrote about relationships I saw on television. Most of my high school years were spent alone in my bedroom writing, which seems like a miserable way to live life as a teenager (sometimes it was), but it birthed a passion and a habit I would return to years later.
A big city. A grown up. A bubbly toast to 2016.
At the beginning of the year, I made a list of ten ambitions (not resolutions—I think there’s something too final about a resolution that leaves little room for organic growth and adaptability) that are now taped to my wall, and the first one on the list reads, “Let go.”
Twenty-one-year-old Eriana’s version of letting go was quite different tHan the 12-year-old’s version. I knew I needed to let go of things I held onto so tightly they prevented me from really living—control, fear, past hurts, perfectionism, my fragile identity.
The third ambition on my list reads, “Be vulnerable.” I was exhausted by hiding and burying. I wanted to feel again. I wanted to be able to connect with people emotionally. I wanted to experience what I had been missing out on. After watching a TED Talk by Brené Brown on the importance of vulnerability, I knew something had to be done to change the way I’d been living since I was in middle school.
It just so happened that the year I decided to let go and be vulnerable, I experienced a feeling I had never experienced before:
The Greek word for romantic love.
Funny how life does those sorts of things, right? How is a girl so well versed in burying feelings and rejecting emotional expression supposed to deal with that?
Until then, I had had two crushes. The one when I was twelve, and another one in high school. Seven years is a long time to go without feeling much and expressing even less (especially when seven years constitutes a third of your existence). The new feelings that came were wild and all-consuming and confusing and wonderful and terrifying. It felt like a hurricane.
I was writing again before I even realized I was writing again. Lyrics flooded my head, with melodies in step behind them—and vice versa. I wouldn’t talk about what I felt at first. I couldn’t even accept what I felt until it was in the form of a song. (Sometimes I don’t even know what I feel until it’s written, and it’s like I’m subconsciously informing myself of what’s going on in my heart and brain.)
It was like the opening of floodgates. I couldn’t stop writing. And then came poetry. And journaling. I was feeling. I was expressing! I was human, after all (and I wrote about that). I even began sharing my music, which meant I was sharing my feelings. It became easier. I was healing. I was learning vulnerability, and it was magical.
This is what life can be like?
Songwriting was natural; it was home.
And now with a whole folder full of honest words backed by notes played on piano or strung on guitar, I feel more human than I ever have before. I’m braver. Feelings aren’t as scary to me. Vulnerability isn’t quite as daunting as it used to be. That growth came from a lot more than songwriting, but music was a really important vehicle. It still is. It’s where I go when I don’t know what to feel or how I feel—or what to say or how to say it.
Sometimes everything comes easily; and then sometimes it’s an exploration, a struggle on the page or at the keys. The process is always a little different, but the result is usually the same. More clarity. More peace. More understanding. More courage… And the urge to share and express more.
I imagine songwriting will always be catharsis for me. I suspect it will always be something I turn to when I feel and need to express it, or when I need to figure out what I’m feeling or thinking. Now, though, I want to let other people in to see and hear it. It’s not something I want to keep hidden.
When I was fifteen I wrote a song called “Bulletproof,” in which I expressed my desire for others to see that I wasn’t invincible—I had feelings—and words and actions destroyed me even if I didn’t let it show. Seven years later, a song called “Invincible” has entered my repertoire. It’s about the moment I realized I wasn’t impenetrable like I had thought I was, and was, in fact, prone to the mest of feelings like everyone else. It exemplifies the same sort of parallel I see now in “Letting Go,” the song, versus “Let go,” the ambition.
Before, I thought “invincibility” was strength. Now, I see how it was a weakness, and vulnerability is strength. I had to write about that to figure it out.
I love what songwriting does for me. I love that it has acted as a gateway to expression and vulnerability, to which I had little access before. Now, I have a familiar place to which I can always go when feelings are challenging—and a whole hypothetical album worth of songs I’d love to record and share one day!
I found a way to express my feelings when I couldn’t—or didn’t know how to do so.
And I’m really glad I’m not pseudo-invincible anymore.
We all have different ways of dealing with emotions… How do you process emotions? Is there a creative process you turn to when you need to express yourself?