Follow Your Dreams

I Gave Up My Dream After 10 Years! Here is Why.

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When I was 11 years old, I learned that I could sing. Nobody in my family could sing but I realized early on that I had a very good ear for music.
I remember watching Mariah Carey’s Without You on MTV and thinking that she must be the most beautiful and certainly the most talented woman in the world. Her music relaxed me and gave me such a feeling of freedom. I would sing to myself or in front of my mirror, sometimes even for hours — it still makes me smile. I started daydreaming about becoming a singer and going on tour, I pictured myself on an album cover, making beautiful photos and performing to great audiences. Well, as you can guess, that never happened…or at least, not exactly like that. So, let me begin my story:

Like I said, I was 11 years old when I first found out that I could sing. I joined the school quire and listened to a lot of music then. I was a kid having fun and exploring.

Ever since I had discovered my love for music I never stopped (day)dreaming of a music career.

Yet, despite my love for music I wanted to become a doctor. Yes, that’s right and here is why: on my mother’s side of the familiy we have many doctors that have inspired me from an early age on and so I wanted to become one too. I directed my whole education towards this goal and my parents fully supported me. My grades in school were excellent and by the time I was 18, I was not only fluent in four languages but had 6 years of Latin and natural sciences in my curriculum. I was ready for med school. In the back of my mind though, things were not so easy. Ever since I had discovered my love for music I never stopped (day)dreaming of a music career. It was a very private thought and I remember not willing to share it with just anyone. My closest friends knew that I had a good voice but I never spoke of a music career with them.

I could clearly see myself becoming a doctor — but what I saw was a desaster! All I could see was an unhappy Me in the future.

Time passed and three years of med school with it. I do have to admit that going to med school has been one of the most brilliant experiences in my life. I studied at the Vienna Medical University in Austria and I worked in different hospitals, gaining knowledge and helping people. But on the inside, I could feel that this was not my path. Don’t get me wrong, I was still an excellent student and I was fully committed to all of my exams and assignments but I just couldn’t feel it. I would talk to patients and doctors and fellow students, I would go to school and learn a lot, I could clearly see myself becoming a doctor — but what I really saw was a desaster! All I could see was an unhappy Me in the future. And that’s when I quit. I called my mother, I cried and I told her that I was about to quit med school. My parents were completely shocked at first. But they never questioned my decision and so my journey of pursuing a singing career began.

Quitting university was one thing, finding a new career and being successful was a completely different thing. I remember feeling lost, unbelievably lost! I was 21, I had no money, I was still living with my parents, I had no idea how to actually start a music career. I didn’t know what to do and so I started looking for a job. I found a part-time job at a local tech store and I moved out. My passion for music couldn’t provide for me and the bills had to be paid. Being very shy about wanting to become a singer and having no clue of the industry, I reached out to people I knew and told them about my dream — hoping that somebody would know somebody who could eventually help mit with a demo tape. (Yes, demo tapes were still a thing, we’re talking early 2000s)

Soon I realized that being a young girl in this industry wasn’t easy. I didn’t know anyone, I had no connections, no nothing. I would call production companies and ask for jobs but as soon as they’d realize that I was on my own, their whole behavior would change. I was sexually harassed on multiple occasions, verbally abused by a couple of producers and called many names when I made clear that I wanted to sing only — no benefits included! It was horrible and even the memory of it all makes me feel utter disgust. But such experiences could not stop me, I told myself. Keep moving, keep looking, I thought. Years would pass until all of these experiences would come back haunting me.

I still had very little money, still no future plans figured out and I had dropped out of med school. I was 25 then and I felt like there was no hope for me.

And then, finally, I got lucky and met a local DJ/songwriter who promised to help me with my demo. And he did, at least in the beginning. We put together 3 original songs which I then tried to pitch to local and national radio stations. But it never worked out. After several rejections in which basically all radio stations argued that I wasn’t signed yet and therefore couldn’t be airplayed, I was devastated. Months and months of work and hope and all for nothing. To make things even worse, the DJ withdrew from the project altogether because of personal reasons. That was a blow I almost couldn’t recover from! Where would I find another songwriter? I still had very little money, still no future plans figured out and I had dropped out of med school. I was 25 then and I felt like there was no hope for me.

Struggling to make ends meet, my friend’s mother suggested to come and work for her. She was the head of a government department in the national immigration service. I hated the job right away but I took it anyway. I felt like a total failure but this way I would at least have a good salary and be able to support myself — and my dream.

“What if I don’t make it as a singer” did not even occur to me. I would not allow for such thoughts.

I think it was right then and there that my life started spiraling downwards and it all happend because I refused to actually come up with a Plan B. My phyiscal and emotional health began to decline but I pushed it all aside. Thoughts like “What if I don’t make it as a singer” did not even occur to me. I would not allow for such thoughts. Instead I would grit my teeth, go to work every single day and try to network after work as much as possible. I was constantly looking for like-minded people who had similar taste in music. As it turned out, there was not much interest in Soul and R’n’B in little Austria and so I struggled to find my music match. Also, the internet was not a big thing back then and you actually had to find people in real life. There was no way for me to just look somebody up on Social Media.

I continued to work in my awfully boring job as a government clerk while playing mini concerts with all kinds of bands at night. I played Pop, Funk and Blues with several bands and though I loved the thrill of a concert, the struggle for recognition as a solo artist and my goal to become a successful singer drained me completely. I failed to find a good songwriter and I unfortunately never clicked with any of the bands or its members which left me very frustrated and depressed. To make things worse, I never had enough money for great recordings or to buy original music. I was a good singer but definitely not much of a songwriter. This made me vulnerable and exposed me to all kinds of harassment in pursuit of a good producer team.

I was desparate for success and it was slowly dawning on me that my day job could actually become my life, my REAL life.

At age 27, six years into my venture, I had basically no results at all! I still had no formal education and I still had a very boring job that I couldn’t see myself in. I was desparate for success and it was slowly dawning on me that my day job could actually become my life, my REAL life. I was horrified at that very thought. Me? Being a government clerk for the rest of my life? No, no, no, I thought and went right back to university — while working full-time. I registered for the major in liguistics and languages and decided to push even harder for my music career.

About three years and many, many gigs later, I met a wonderful songwriter through a mutual friend. We clicked immediately and he started working on some originals for me right away. My terrible mood, my health issues and my constant worrying stabilzed for a couple of months and I really hoped for this to be my golden ticket to succes. But, well, this isn’t a fairytale and I’m not the lucky princess in the end.

Ultimately, the collaboration ended in a desaster! The once wonderful songwriter turned out to be an alcoholic who suffered from severe alcoholic paranoia and who thought that our studio engineer and I were going to steel his comopositions. Of course, none of that was true. We almost got into a terrible legal fight over who said what and who had done what and he threatened to sue me if I published any of his songs. I was really, really scared of him as he continued to send me very disturbing emails and voice messages for months. (I do still have them.)

I was heartbroken after this. So much work, so many years, so much hope — all gone! I was 31 years old then. I had invested more than 10 years into becoming a singer and I had failed. I couldn’t even say it out loud. That’s how much I was scared of my failure becoming reality — when it already had become exactly that.

It all came crushing down on me — the stress, the pressure, the constant worry for money and my future, the feeling of failure, anxiety, panic and complete embarrassment. Ten years of waiting and hoping and praying and working — I was tired and depleted. My body said No to it all. I was experiencing severe allergies that had to be treated with large amounts of cortisone and a chronic back pain. All those years of suppressing my emotions and my physical pain finally took a toll. I had to quit. I knew it.

Looking back on these years, I now understand that because of pursuing my dream so relentlessly, I had not only driven myself into an emotional burn-out but I had also blindly refused to build a life of my own: I had refused to move into a proper apartment, I had refused to think of a good alternative career for myself, I had refused to think about a proper education, I had in fact refused to come up with a solid Plan B. By focusing solely on my dream I had pressed pause on my very own life — without even consciously noticing it. And because of my sharp focus on my music, everything else had gotten out of focus.

And because of my sharp focus on my music, everything else had gotten out of focus.

We are taught in school that failure is bad. And as a good student I absolutely internalized this message without ever questioning it. As an overachiever and an excellent student in both school and university, I felt the need to be excellent at becoming the next Mariah Carey. But life is not school or university where you will find all the wisdom in the books and in which by giving your best you will achieve the best grades. Oh no! Life is the mere opposite of school — failure is very much needed, it’s a teacher, it gives you guidance and orientation, it helps you make progress. And progress is what makes life worth living after all. By holding onto my dream for too long, I had totally ignored the fact that I was actually standing still.

One very important person that has helped me tremendously in understanding this, was my boyfriend Mike. We met when I was 27 and I believe that it was his optimistic approach to life and his business mindset that helped me recover from my failure. I began to understand that failing was essential in maturing as a person and in establishing who we are as an individual. I looked at the past decade with new eyes and slowly started to recognize that I had not wasted all those years for nothing but that I had gained valuable experiences for my life and that I could make use of them in my new career (I am a teacher now). After all, persistence, endurance, networking, being able to speak in front of people are good qualities in many jobs. And this realization turned everything around for me. I was no longer the hostage of my very own dream, but I was free.

I will continue to follow my dreams and you should do too. But be mindful of your own needs, both emotional and physical. Understand that failure is not the end but always the beginning of something new.

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Sam Jones

Sam Jones

Travelling, teaching, freelancing, reading, creating. I do life with passion. Without passion we are nothing.