When I moved to Los Angeles to pursue music awhile back-I was the fairly typical person who was not from L.A. and had dreams of making something out of my life than what I could do in a small town. I didn't know anyone in the music industry or community. I was the new kid-again.
All my life, I have moved around more times then I care to count. As a kid, we moved around as a family to different places on the east coast-then to the west, to the southern part of the U.S. and back to the west again. I started life off as a confident kid that grew more self conscious with each move. I was already “different” with an artistic side, and then being the new kid added an additional layer of exposure. As an adult, I also moved around quite a bit; this time trying to embrace it as “my gypsy spirit,” but inside I developed severe anxiety attacks and my self consciousness grew more into adulthood. Performing music and being exposed emotionally didn't help-and although I felt inside that music was my life, I floundered doing odd jobs for years.
When I moved to Los Angeles, I was very motivated to do something different with my life. I had gone through a great healing period of dealing with my emotional baggage and felt ready to try music again. Moving to the big city was a real positive experience and although I suffered the worst and most difficult stresses in my life in Los Angeles-moving an average of once a year, financial stress, living in a big city after having lived in a small community; my anxiety attacks went away within the first year and haven’t returned. I like to think that they went away because even though I was under more stress than ever, I was finally doing what I wanted to do with my life.
Still-although I was a lot stronger as a person then I had ever been, navigating the music industry was extremely stressful, but it was nothing compared to the awkwardness I felt about being the new person once I entered the foreign waters of the singer songwriter community of Los Angeles, or what is referred to as, the “tribe.”
As a wandering gypsy, I always balked at anything group or community oriented; not just because of an individual streak inherited from my family of being “self sufficient,” but also from a coping mechanism of not wanting to get attached since I didn't seem to stay in one place too long. After a year in L.A. of checking things out and keeping a relatively low profile, I eventually was drawn to the folk/singer songwriter community. I forced myself to get out of my comfort zone and started to go out and listen to music and talk to people which always brings about that uncomfortable feeling associated with being the “new kid” again. It also doesn't help my situation that upon first glance-I appear to be stand offish and aloof, but I'm pretty much a social person who loves to joke around and laugh. Much to my surprise, it didn't take me long to start bonding with a lot of great folks, and I am still in shock about how friendly a notorious “unfriendly” city like Los Angeles is. Out of all the places I have ever lived-I have never felt so welcomed and loved as here; perhaps it is because a lot of people in L.A. are transplants and we all share that bond of having been the new person.
Still, there is always going to be someone who is not going to like you for whatever reason, judges you or who you rub the wrong way, especially in a tight knit community where people forget that they might have been new at some point. I've always been an overly sensitive person and on occasion I have been told what others have said about me; and they have been from the completely wild with zero truth, to opinions about my relationships or how I go about navigating the business of my music career. It's amazing the sting I feel from hearing something negative. Science says our brains hold on to these often rare negative experiences so much more than the millions of positive ones. I have found from being the new person more times than I can count, that more often than not-someone who says something negative about you has never even had a real conversation with you and doesn't know you. Artists are also more in the public eye, and are more likely to be highly scrutinized and discussed as creatives do what is necessary for them to gain traction in an extremely difficult business which means a lot of self promotion, networking and aligning yourself with the people who can help and support you.
My personal experience has been one of many changes in environments and communities and doesn’t reflect what most people go through, but my move to Los Angeles made me reflect on how many artists must be going through the anxiety and awkwardness of being a stranger in a strange land. I have been really fortunate to have found a community where most people have embraced my presence, and I hope that those out there that are experiencing being the new person have also been embraced by a community. Everyone's journey is so unique and life is really hard, so although being part of a large music community can feel like high school all over again at times-it's one of the most beautiful experiences in the lonely world of an artist; to feel embraced, accepted and encouraged, and if there are some haters- nourish the positive connections you create and move on from the rest-and don't forget to reach out to the new people that need your support.
What was your experience like being new in a music community-or are you currently going through this?
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