Have you learned to be yourself? Are you the person you dreamed you would be?
My Guest this week in the Over 50 & Thriving Series, discusses how she has overcome her fears and found enjoyment in life after 50. I have only recently met Fil Campbell, and I believe is our first guest in the series who is a recording artist! Fil is a singer and you can connect with her and read about her career in the links to her website and social media at the end of her post.
Learning to be myself
I was a bit overwhelmed at first when Sue asked me to take part in her Thriving Over 50 series, but as I pondered over what to write about, I’m very grateful for the challenge, as it has brought me to a point of realisation that something I’d been waiting to happen in my life is finally in place.
I’m a singer – always have been. It was never a career choice, it was just what I did. As a child I was going to at first be Shirley Temple and then be Judy Garland when I grew up. So sure was I that all I had to do was open my mouth, let people hear me and someone would whisk me off to the land of Oz 🙂 It never occurred to me that there was work involved in making any of that happen.
At school I had a near spiritual experience when singing at assembly one morning; this overpowering feeling of connection to the universe came over me along with such an intense feeling of joy that I felt that my voice was my prayer. The nuns weren’t too impressed though when I decided that I no longer wanted to go to Religion Class or mass after that – to me it was clear, I had it all sorted!
But around the same time I was very badly bullied – at first by a music teacher and then by a group of my classmates who were annoyed that I had won some prize that they thought their friend should have won. The two incidents devastated me and I have spent my life since trying to deal with it.
At first I continued singing for a short while; I even studied Music at University for a couple of years. But I was by then becoming so convinced that I couldn’t sing and that I was a useless musician that I chickened out of the music degree, graduating with a General Arts degree instead of the Music degree I now greatly regret not having. I let my band go and after a few years running around the Middle East singing in various covers bands I eventually sold my guitar, my PA, my flute and everything to do with music and stopped entirely.
But the lure of the music business was so strong and the idea of singing was so deeply implanted in me that I didn’t know what else to be working at. So I ended up working around the music business, as a promoter, a band manager, a publicist and even as a Radio Presenter for several years. I was torturing myself working with these people whom I strongly believed I could have done just as good a job as, but I was totally incapable of getting up onto a stage.
And then enter Tom who became my husband. He conned me into taking a gig and my brother bought me a little guitar and I went out, did a terrible gig, shook the whole way through it, but at least I got started. The gigs started to come in, I got a better guitar and was doing some writing and Tom joined me on stage as a percussionist a few years later.
But by this stage I was totally overwhelmed by stage fright – a rabbit caught in the headlights. At one major festival in Austria where Tom and I were one of the headliners, I was so terrified that I kept my eyes closed for the first half hour of our set, on one hand afraid the audience would disappear and on the other hand afraid that they’d still be there.
When we got off the stage our friends who had come down from Munich to cheer us on told me to get sorted or give up.
The thought of giving up was worse than the thought of continuing so I started journalling and doing various therapies and learned how to at least manage the stage fright and carry on, still with the very negative beliefs, but somehow getting on with things.
And it’s not been all bad.
We’ve succeeded in making a living in this crazy business. We’ve made and continue to make, the most amazing friends along the way. We’ve watched their children grow, got to know the pets when the children moved out and now are on to the grandchildren. We recorded several CDs with some of the best musicians in Ireland and made a TV documentary series for national TV. I’ve taught hundreds of young, and not so young, singers, have a lovely community choir and continue to travel widely across Europe, and have even been to America and Australia with our songs.
I recently turned 60 and in our profession there’s no chance of retiring. It’s a changing business and we’re never going to have Madonna’s millions now but we play gorgeous small theatres and folk clubs to audiences who are growing older with us.
And at last I am enjoying myself. And that was what I was waiting for.
I always had this idealised image of myself as being contented with what I do, coping with the lulls and enjoying the busy times, unafraid to put myself forward and at last accepting the voice that I have.
For decades I’ve preached to my students to stop trying to be someone else and work on what they have, but was never quite able to achieve that myself.
I am still nervous, terrified even and writing this essay has raised my stress levels somewhat:)
But I think I’m finally the woman I’ve dreamed of being and I’m really looking forward to seeing what I create, with Tom by my side, in the coming years until we’re no longer fit enough to play our instruments or travel. And by that stage something else will (hopefully) have come along.
So yes Sue, I do believe I am thriving – thanks for asking me to take part.