I have a withhold that I need to address. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a withhold is something that you need to give voice to that happened in the past, which you did not properly address at the time. It is a withhold because it has been affecting you and your life, and you eventually found out that you needed to speak up about it for your own sanity and well-being.
As a disclaimer, my goal here is not to rehash the past, or to blame anyone, but rather to share my feelings authentically and vulnerably about what occurred, with the hope that with this understanding of how it affected me and my feelings, then it would not be repeated again in the future.
The scene is May 2015, and I have just graduated with my master’s degree in geology (geothermal energy) from University of North Dakota. I have packed up all my belongings and I am now driving across the country from North Dakota to Nevada.
As I’m sitting in my car, I’m ruminating about how unsupported I feel from my entire network. I feel completely isolated and alone, not to mention completely unsupported.
For those of you unfamiliar with my story, I had not wanted to get my master’s degree in science; rather, I had wanted to get my master’s degree in music performance. However, after my junior recital at Penn State, my viola teacher had lost confidence in me and my playing. He asked me what I wanted to do after PSU, and I had said that I had wanted to go on and get my master’s degree in music performance and then go on to play music in pit orchestras on Broadway. This was my dream, I had told him, and I was very excited about it.
My teacher promptly told me to give up on my dream, because it sucked. He said that many people embarked on that kind of career with high hopes, but then quickly got tired of the long hours and low pay, and then could not afford to take time off to look for a different job. He didn’t want to see me “backed into a corner with my career,” so he told me to give up on music and become a geologist instead.
Ironically, with this very interaction, I already felt “backed into a corner with my career.” Without the support of my instructor, I didn’t feel either willing or able to pursue my career in music. So even though I was crushed, demoralized, and devastated, I followed his advice, moved to North Dakota, and got my master’s degree in geology.
Even though I liked geology and I liked my professors and colleagues at UND, I knew that this was not the right decision for me and that this was not what I wanted to do with my life. After the excitement of being in a new place with a new plan wore off, I began to really loathe my time in North Dakota. I didn’t feel like I belonged there in terms of the culture and values, and I didn’t feel authentic because I wasn’t following my heart and being creative.
After the incident at PSU, I all but gave up playing my instruments. I played viola in the Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra, but this was only because my dad had encouraged me to join. In general, I felt very turned off to playing music and instruments and I didn’t want to do it anymore. Writing became my primary creative outlet, and my first summer in ND I wrote my first novel in its entirety.
After writing my novel, I often fantasized about quitting my degree program, moving home to Boston, working at Starbucks, and becoming a writer. However, whenever I shared these dreams and desires with others, I was always brutally rebuffed and unsupported. Without naming names, there were people that I called, so upset that I was crying, and I told them how much I hated my life, how much I hated the direction my life was taking, and how much I wanted to go home, start fresh, and be creative again. I even posted about my goals on Facebook, but people on there were very unsupportive of me and my plan. They told me I had to stay there in ND– even though I was completely miserable– finish my degree program, and “get my piece of paper.”
However, I knew that this would never be the end of it, and I was right. Because I felt again like I was backed into a corner and that I had to take everyone’s advice, I did stay in ND, I did finish my degree program, and I did get my piece of paper. But afterward, all I heard from those same people was that now I had to stay in ND and get a “high-paying geology job” and “use my degree” so that I could be responsible, take care of myself, and pay my bills.
I get it, I really do. As I now know from my adult experience as well as my research on the subject, the scarcity mindset is primarily developed from lack of financial abundance and resources. These people who were giving me this advice had learned themselves that they could not be creative, that they could not have fun, and that they had to be boring and logical to get a steady, high-paying job to pay their bills and be responsible adults. Similar to my viola teacher from PSU, these people had thought they were giving me kindly advice and words of wisdom to help me live a better life, but in fact, they were just telling me their own story of misfortune, not mine.
Going back to the people who did not support my decision to quit my degree program in ND, I understand that too. I understand that these people thought they were being loving, supportive, and helpful, by pushing me to finish what I had started and helping me be accountable to my end-goal of getting my master’s degree in science.
However, both of the above events were very detrimental to my health and well-being. This was a really hard time in my life, and I don’t feel that I received proper love, encouragement, or support from the people in my network. Also, I feel disappointed that most people didn’t even want to hear about my hard time, instead just wanting to be surface level friends. I have always done my best to be a “hard times friend,” so I felt hurt and let down when that favor was not returned.
Furthermore, I felt that the people who encouraged me to stay in ND afterward to pursue a high-paying geology job only cared about finances and financial well-being, at the expense of mentality, emotions, and physical well-being. I felt that they did not really understand me, my needs, my wants, or my desires, because they were just pushing me to continue on a path that I hated, which was not right for me, and which was making me have an autoimmune illness (lupus).
As a result, I felt lonely and like I didn’t have anyone to turn to during hard times that really cared about me and my well being. It caused me to withdraw from my network in isolation, because I didn’t trust others anymore. I began to lose faith in humanity and started grinding my teeth at night.
I felt that the people giving me this advice clearly didn’t know what was best for me, but that they were pushing their advice on me anyway and telling me that their way was valid and that my way was invalid. I felt that they were just saying that in order to be considered a valid adult, I had to be boring and logical and get a steady, high-paying job that I hated, just to pay my bills, just so that I would have a secure financial future, at the expense of my happiness and joy. I felt that they were telling me that it was valid to be logical and scientific, but invalid to be emotional and creative. I felt like my voice didn’t matter, my decisions and opinions were not good enough, and that I needed to change myself and my entire way of being to fit in with everyone and gain everyone’s approval.
However, now I know that this was wrong. There are many people who have become very wealthy and very successful being creative and following their passions. There are also many wealthy people who are silly and fun and who are also very successful in their businesses. And I will be one of them.
Not to mention, I deserve a network of people who support me in my decisions, regardless of the path that I choose to take and regardless of what I choose to do with my life and my time. The right people support my decisions to be creative and pursue a life filled with music, writing, fun, and laughter. I believe that I can have it all, and I deserve relationships with people who also believe that I can have it all.
By the way, I eventually did reconcile myself with the life that I wanted. I started by playing the piano again when I lived in Nevada, and after I moved back home to Boston I joined several orchestras and got back into playing my viola. Even though it was a lot of work to overcome my toxic music school experience, it was worth it because I now very much enjoy playing my viola again and I even very much enjoy performing for other people.
Also, I now work at Starbucks and I’m pursuing being a writer. Go me 🙂
Anyway, that was my withhold. Thank you for listening to me and for giving me the opportunity to share myself authentically and vulnerably. I am excited for my future of business, creativity, fun, passion, and wealth, and I will be successful in my life just by being my true and authentic self. I hope that you will decide to honor me, respect me, and support me in all of my future endeavors, regardless of what they may be.